33% of all cannabis users are aged 21 - 40. Although we tend to think of people under age 50 as the main consumers of cannabis, other age groups matter, too. Americans aged 50 - 65+ make up roughly 15% of all cannabis consumption as of 2019. Of course, cannabis use is still the most popular with the under-40 crowd. With that said, consumption is also gaining speed in the senior market. In fact, seniors could be the next big market for cannabis products.
In 2020, there are ten times as many Americans aged 65 and older who smoke cannabis (compared to 2007). According to a study published by the American Medical Association, there was a 75% surge in senior cannabis use between 2015 - 2018 alone. But the numbers are still small. Senior cannabis use was at 0.4% in 2007; in 2018 it was at 4.4%.
The study found that seniors were more likely to use cannabis if they:
Had a mental disorder.
Had a higher income.
The increase may not be significant compared to the consumption rates of younger Americans, but the incredible spike in senior consumption has the cannabis industry reeling.
Why are so many seniors using cannabis in 2020?
Experts say that legalization efforts are the answer. Now that cannabis is decriminalized and accepted as medical treatment in many states, seniors feel more comfortable using cannabis. As people live longer, we have to manage more chronic illnesses; cannabis can often alleviate chronic symptoms for seniors who don’t want to rely on opioids.
The AMA study found that many seniors took cannabis to manage physical pain. However, more education needs to happen for seniors using cannabis, as a large percentage are mixing cannabis and alcohol. This can have disastrous effects, especially for the elderly. Another concern is that the cannabis industry doesn’t have a lot of research into how cannabis interacts with geriatric patients in the first place.
While seniors are slowly embracing cannabis to manage their health, this should be a wakeup call to the industry. Invest in research and consumer education to better reach senior cannabis users.
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