Are you ever too old to start smoking weed?

Published Mar 29, 2021 11:00 a.m. ET
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Gone are the days when smoking weed was a younger person’s game. Of course, there have always been some older folks who can still appreciate a good, deep hit of cannabis, but only recently has the number of elderly partaking, grown so significantly. Senior citizens age 65+ are now the fastest-growing demographic of cannabis users in the United States, increasing by 75% between 2015 and 2018.

Seniors still make up an incredibly small portion of consumers, especially when compared to younger generations between the ages of 18 and 34 which make up 30% of all users. Older people that report smoking weed average closer to 8%. Still, the massive jump is crystal clear evidence of a shift in public perception of cannabis.

Why are more elderly folks smoking weed?

In the early 2000’s geriatric stoners were nearly non-existent, and some are confused by this sudden shift, but it makes perfect sense when you look at all of the variables. Since then, medical dispensaries have become more widely accessible, and several states have enacted laws to allow for a legal recreational cannabis market. Other countries like Canada have also gotten on board, federally accepting the green plant and its place in society, so more reasonable opinions are prevailing.

The pandemic might also have contributed to recent spikes in older cannabis smokers, as seniors turned to cannabinoids for relief from boredom, anxiety, or pain, and now more than a year of avoiding those closest to them. Some say that this change is a good thing, signaling an acceptance of cannabis we’ve all been waiting for, but others aren’t so sure.

What the health experts have to say

Medical health experts are growing increasingly concerned as more seniors turn to cannabis, and they have a long list of specific issues that are worth noting.

  • Some experts say that geriatric cannabis research is incredibly limited, which means that we cannot be sure of the potential for more severe adverse effects due to age.

  • Many fear that patients will try smoking weed instead of taking prescribed treatments for ailments, in particular, neurological pain which can be difficult if not impossible to manage without conventional treatments.

  • Impairment is a very real concern particularly in seniors who might be more prone to falls or poor judgment. Driving impaired is also an issue that might be more prominent in older consumers.

  • As you get older, your metabolism slows down, which, as far as scientists can tell, should have an impact on how long the effects of cannabis can be felt, making it more difficult for seniors to wait out any possible adverse effects.

  • Cannabinoids can impact the effectiveness of prescription medications, but there is not enough research to know for certain which ones.

Tips and tricks for safe cannabis use

Smoking weed isn’t inherently dangerous for those who are above a certain age, at least that we know of, but until we do, most experts recommend that this age group proceeds with caution by following a few simple guidelines:

  • Start with small doses
  • Moderate consumption carefully
  • Do not mix cannabis with prescription medication without consulting a healthcare professional
  • Do not mix cannabis with alcohol
  • Be sure to indulge in a safe environment, preferably around people who may be able to offer support
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