Baby boomers well positioned to take over the cannabis market in Canada

Published Apr 29, 2019 01:30 p.m. ET
AP Photo/Nati Harnik

Though marijuana use is very often associated with younger people in general, it’s a market that appears to be leaning towards a customer base that is set to garner the most benefits from legalization, and those people are the baby boomers. Though that might surprise the average person who is looking at the subject from only a recreational point of view, medical cannabis is becoming a new trend among those over 50 who are seeking alternative treatments for their health problems. Whether it's a decent night's rest, less pain, fewer seizures, or one of the many other reasons older people are beginning to consider marijuana use. The results so far show a steady increase of those who are over 50 purchasing from legal government websites like OCS. So why is that, and why is it expected to continue? Well, there are a few different reasons for this projection, and the numbers seem to add up across the board.

Disposable income

As Canada’s boomers begin to reach retirement age, they are still strongly influencing the economy. According to Statistics Canada baby boomers’ control as much as 65% of the population's total disposable income. Boomers are also predicted to spend up to 58% more money over the next 15 years than they have in the last, mainly due to an increasing income from pensions, extra work hours, RSP’s, etc. This leaves the age group in the perfect position to spend a little more for legal marijuana even for recreational reasons.

Medical benefits

If you haven't heard, then it’s time you found out about the legal, medical marijuana market in Canada, and how its existence is expected to help increase baby boomers hold on the cannabis industry. So far only one drug store Shoppers Drug Mart has any official contracts with the Canadian government, but the pharmacy chain will now provide medical cannabis products that are prescribed by a doctor. While that doesn’t make sense to many who have tried to obtain insurance coverage to help pay for a much-needed prescription of pot, the Canadian government is in the process of providing an official code that will allow insurance providers to cover the marijuana derived products within reason. As of now, there is only one insurance company in Canada, that offers minimal coverage for a medical cannabis prescription, but once this official status is provided, anyone with a chronic or debilitating condition will be able to use marijuana products at little to no expense to themselves.

Less responsibility

Though not all baby boomers are retired or reduced to part time hours, the majority have much more spare time than the younger generations where they aren’t responsible for driving, functioning heavy machinery, or any other tasks that might be negatively impaired from marijuana use. This gives them a lot more freedom to experiment with cannabis with minimal risk to the person’s financial security or well-being. This generation is currently working an average of 30 hours or less per week, vs. millennials who are working an average of 39-60 hours per week.

Chronic illness

Our baby boomer population is now expected to live longer than their parents, but that comes at the cost of higher rates of chronic health issues or disease. They are also less likely to smoke which has led to a decrease in respiratory problems that might have been triggered by marijuana use. There is also a slightly higher risk 5% of cancer in baby boomers now than their parents ever saw, which has led to a massive portion of the population in need of some form of relief for pain or other symptoms like nausea, lack of appetite, insomnia, etc. Many from this generation are seeking alternative treatments due to current knowledge on some of the most prescribed opioids and turning to cannabinoids like THC or CBD for relief instead.

Prior marijuana use  

Statistics Canada asked thousands of respondents of all ages if they would consider using cannabis again if they had quit at some point during their youth. A whopping 19% said yes that they planned on trying marijuana for a host of different reasons during the first three months of legalization. These are people who likely smoked as teens and chose to give up the habit to have children and live life without fear of legal repercussions. 10% of the 19% also said that never would have quit if cannabis had been made legal sooner.

According to one study conducted by Statistics Canada between November 1 and December 15 this year, 14% of all baby boomers surveyed had just begun using cannabis for the first time in their lives, mainly due to its newly found legal status across much of the western world. Marijuana use in those who were age 24 to 35 dropped by nearly 3%. Though it might be the last generation that we expected to rule the industry, it appears boomers might just be the ones to shape it for the future.

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