Why Growing Numbers of Baby Boomers and the Elderly Are Smoking Pot
More and more of the nation’s 78 million Boomers are discovering they’d rather smoke marijuana than reach for a pharmaceutical
Conventional wisdom dictates that as younger generations slowly replace the old, conservative social traditions are jettisoned. This may be true for issues such as gay marriage, where there are clear divisions among younger and older voters, but when it comes to marijuana reform, the evidence indicates that simplistic divisions of opinion along age lines don’t apply for pot.
Earlier this week, an AP wire article picked up a lot of buzz in the news-cycle, with a title and premise meant to shock the mainstream: “Marijuana Use by Seniors Goes up as Boomers Age.”
The AP article was pegged to a December report released by the Federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). It revealed that the number of Americans over 50 who had reported consuming cannabis in the year prior to the study had gone up from 1.9 percent to 2.9 percent in the period from 2002 to 2008.
This is supported by earlier polling results. In February 2009, a Zogby poll found that voters aged 50 to 64 were almost equally divided in their support for marijuana legalization at 48 percent. In that same poll, young voters aged 18 to 29 were the cohort who most enthusiastically supported legalization, at 55 percent. But overall support among all ages came in at 44 percent.
So who brought the average down? Don’t lay the blame on the elderly. In fact, as early as 2004, an AARP poll found that 72 percent of its members (all 50-plus, with the lion’s share over 65) supported marijuana for medical purposes, indicating their understanding of the benefits of legal cannabis availability.
Some expert observers in the marijuana reform movement believe that the bulk of marijuana detractors are made up of 30- and 40-somethings — adults of parenting age. And as more of the 65-and-over crowd is populated by Baby Boomers, it appears that in the not-too-distant future every age demographic including the elderly will approve of marijuana reform more than Americans in their 30s and 40s.
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