30 states and the District of Columbia have now legalized cannabis for medical and/or adult-use, leading millions of people to begin using the plant – some for the first time. The question is: which segment of the population is flocking to dispensaries the fastest?
According to a recent study published by CBS, seniors are the fastest-growing pot demographic in the country, with cannabis use among those 55 and over increasing by 53 percent between 2013 and 2014.
Experts believe that the reason the elderly are so interested in cannabis is due to its potential as a treatment for many illnesses and ailments that plague them, such as arthritis, insomnia, inflammation, chronic pain, muscle weakness or spasm, and decreased appetite.
Since the average senior citizen in America takes at least two prescription drugs – and over half take four or more – it's no surprise that Grandma and Grandpa are looking for an alternative.
"It's certainly true that cannabis and THC have a much better safety profile than the opioid drugs and are less physiologically addicting,” said Dr. Igor Grant, who is currently studying the potential medical benefits of marijuana. “So they're safer. That doesn't mean they're completely safe. ... Nothing is completely safe.”
Seniors also tend to have more disposable income than other demographics, and since Medicare or other major insurance doesn’t cover medical marijuana, the dollar spend among the elderly tends to be higher. They aren't just smoking traditional flower; seniors also enjoy cannabis-infused gummies and candies, disposable vaporizer pens, tinctures, and topicals.
Medicare or other major insurance doesn’t cover medical marijuana.
In Canada, where adult-use marijuana sales will become legal nationwide on October 17, a coalition of physicians is currently working on guidelines to help curious senior citizens navigate the oft-confusing world of cannabis. Funded by Health Canada, The Canadian Coalition for Seniors' Mental Health wants both the elderly and their prescribing doctors to feel informed and comfortable in the choices they make with regards to the plant.
"The marketing of marijuana has really overshadowed the science," Rand Teed, a Regina-based drug and alcohol counselor who is part of the coalition, told the CBC. "The information that doctors have received so far has been quite confusing for them in many cases."
Teed wants seniors to know that cannabis may not be a cure-all and that different types have varying effects. This includes the difference between THC, which is psychoactive, and CBD, which is not.
"If you randomly start to use something without getting some decent information and decent advice, you're putting yourself at risk for creating some medical complications."
David Kani is a California based trial lawyer, author, and social commentator.
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