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Senior Cannabis Users Grew Post Legalization

In a recent survey by Statistics Canada, cannabis use has grown for senior Canadians aged 65 and older. Even though the actual number of senior citizen’s cannabis consumption is less compared to other age groups, senior citizens in the only age group to report a rise compared to last year. Cannabis usage among other age groups has stayed the same.

Statistics Canada survey

Statistics Canada has been conducting the National Cannabis Survey for almost two years. This survey is carried out every three months to look at cannabis consumption and behavior over time. The latest reports continue to show generational and gender differences in cannabis use. The latest findings of the survey are:

  • Senior cannabis users are less compared to other age groups. Only 7% of seniors aged 65 or more use cannabis. By comparison, consumption stands at 10% for 45- to 64-year-olds, 25% for 25- to 44-year-olds and 26% for 15- to 24-year-olds.
  • Even though the numbers are less for seniors, it has been growing faster than other age groups. For instance, less than 1% of seniors used cannabis in 2012, which was around 40,000 people. This rose to more than 400,000 seniors in the third quarter of 2019.
  • This rise in cannabis use among seniors has boosted the average age of cannabis users. The average age moved from 29.4 years in 2004 to 38.1 years in 2019.
  • In the last six months, 578,000 used cannabis for the first time. About 27% of cannabis consumers aged 65 or older used cannabis for the first time in the last 6 months.
  • Most of the seniors only use medical cannabis. The breakup of cannabis use by seniors stands at 52% for only medical reasons, 24% for non-medical use, and 24% for both medical and non-medical reasons. In contrast, the younger generation’s survey breakup stands at 60% for non-medical use, 35% for both medical and non-medical, and 5% for only medical.
  • About 28% of the total users get their cannabis from a legal source. And 41% of users aged 65 or older get cannabis only from a legal source. This percentage is between 23% and 29% for other age categories.

Growing senior cannabis users

Doctors prescribe medical marijuana mostly for diseases like arthritis, insomnia, chronic pain, Alzheimer’s diseases, and epilepsy. These diseases are widespread in older people. After making cannabis completely legal, the stigma around marijuana is changing. More people are trying medical cannabis products. Even in charity events for the patients affected by these diseases, the outreach programs create awareness about the uses of cannabis medicines.

Kelly Gorman, director of public policy and government affairs at the Arthritis Society of Canada, said, “There are over 6 million Canadians that are living with arthritis, a large number of those are over 65. They’re looking for ways to relieve their pain.”

Why senior cannabis users are less than other age groups

Even though medical marijuana has been legal in Canada for 18 years, there is still a stigma among older people for using cannabis medicines. Although people widely use cannabis now, there is small reliable scientific evidence regarding standardized doses and protocols. This leads to physicians recommending dosage from their experiences. Overdosage may lead to side effects like drowsiness and dizziness. This can contribute to instability and fainting in older people. This leads to great caution among senior Canadians.

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As per the recent reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cases of people with vaping-related illnesses in the US have risen to 1,888. Federal health officials reported 38 deaths. Most of these cases reported are due to THC in their products.

Even though these cases are reported in a different country, it has current and potential users worried. Another big reason is the cost of cannabis medicines. Users getting cannabis products from legal sources say it’s expensive. Thus, senior consumers settle for other medicines.

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