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Older Americans rank as the newest growing demographic of cannabis users in the nation. A new survey reveals that about 1 in 20 Americans ages 55 and older have smoked marijuana in the past month.

The study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, analyzed three years of national survey data collected between 2016 to 2018 from over 170,000 adults over the age of 55. Researchers found cannabis use among men (6.7%) was almost double that of women (3.5%).

Study co-author and University of Massachusetts Medical School professor Bill Jesdale suggested that changing attitudes and new available education around cannabis use could explain the trend.

“It could be there are more people using marijuana for medical conditions,” Jesdale said. “It could be there are more using it for recreational uses. It could be more people acknowledging use, in an environment when it’s easier to say that you use products when talking to someone from the government.”

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A different study published last month found that cannabis users over the age of 60 self-reported improvements in their health-related quality of life (HRQL). Researchers collected data from medical marijuana use among older patients in Colorado and Illinois across a one-year period. There was a “strong positive association” connecting how often patients used cannabis and self-reporting upgrades in pain management, health-care utilization, and HRQL.

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“Many seniors likely experimented first-hand with cannabis during their youth and are now returning to it as a potential therapy to mitigate many of the health-related symptoms that come with older age, including chronic pain,” NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said. “Many seniors are well aware of the litany of serious adverse side-effects associated with available prescription drugs, like opioids, and they perceive medical cannabis to be a viable alternative.”

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Public attitudes about cannabis legalization among baby boomers, or those born between 1946 and 1964, have certainly changed in recent years. Recent polling by the Pew Research Center shows 63% of all boomers are in favor of legal marijuana.

Said Armentano, “As their attitudes continue to evolve on cannabis, expect to see many politicians at the state and federal level shift their views as well.”

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