If you grew up using cannabis there’s a good chance you probably knew more than a few ways to keep your parents from finding out. Maybe you stuffed a towel under the door for a Jamaican hotbox session. You might have rigged up a sploof to keep your smoke on the down low, or told them you smelled like your friends when you walked through the door. Times have changed, young grasshopper, and your parents may be twice as likely to partake now than they did when you were young.
No doubt we have all come a long way since then. When we talk about legalization we’re not only talking about the etiquette surrounding use, controlled access, and quality, or the sometimes tricky navigation of new legislation correctly — now, we’re also talking about a shift in perception for people, usually among the older generation, who may have long held a negative association with cannabis use.
For them, the leaf went hand in hand with troublesome teens and family drama, or maybe a deep fear of being on the wrong side of the law. Decriminalization changes everything; not only has it helped usher in the de-stigmatization of cannabis use, but it has also helped bring its benefits to the fore as well. And that has helped changed the present and future landscape of cannabis in the post-prohibition era, particularly among the older generation. In the US, many of the highest numbers of new users are seniors.
According to this 2016 study from the CDC, since 2002, cannabis use among adults over 40 (35-44) surpassed that of teens from 12-17 years of age for the first time, a notable change. Daily use among Americans 45-54 and 55-64 during the same period went up 50% and 400% — a generation whose experience supersedes that of their elders and who now have the go-ahead to light up as they please. But for seniors in America, cannabis-use jumped over 300% since 2002 and continues to climb today. Although Statistics Canada reports a slower rate of adults over 60 indulging since legalization in comparison, it’s likely that we’ll continue to see attitudes towards cannabis shift.
Seniors are one of the fastest growing groups of new cannabis users — though that’s not to say that they are “new” to it at all. The legendary generation that first flocked to an empty dairy farm out in the Catskills for the first Woodstock festival has arrived in their sixties and seventies bringing with them the same spirit of the age. In all likelihood, they were probably getting stoned often enough in their youth to know that using cannabis wouldn’t kill them. Add to that a dizzying array of new products — capsules, topical ointments, endless edible varieties, essential oils and ever sleeker, more discrete vaping tools — and cannabis use no longer even resembles what our parents grew up with.
Access to cannabis for the older generation isn’t just helping to alleviate fear. The first major peer-reviewed study of seniors’ health conducted in Israel and published in the European Journal of Internal Medicine in March of 2018, showed marijuana had significant benefits in the treatment of senior patients. The team of researchers witnessed a reduction in the use of
powerful pharmaceutical drugs, including opioids, and an overwhelming decrease in chronic pain for more than 90% of the study’s subjects. Those suffering from Parkinson’s Disease can experience near-immediate relief after smoking cannabis, not to mention patients suffering from cancer treatments, glaucoma, and multiple sclerosis. Perhaps more than all this is a feeling of empowerment one experiences when taking control of their own treatment back into their hands.
For many of us, it’s a new age. But for our parents the post-prohibition era of cannabis, with its new and exciting formats, feels much more like a new renaissance.
Author – Daniel John