Why Older Adults Are Choosing Cannabis
You may not immediately think of older adults when you think of cannabis, but this age group is the fastest-growing segment of cannabis consumers. The number of adults over the age of 60 who say they consumed cannabis has increased nearly tenfold, from 0.4% in 2006 to 4.2% in 2018. With medical and adult-use cannabis expanding into more states each year, this figure is expected to increase.
Older adults, like individuals in every other demographic, choose cannabis for many reasons. Some consumed cannabis socially decades ago, only to rediscover it for therapeutic reasons in recent years. Others have been lifelong consumers that simply enjoy the experience it offers. And many, of course, are completely new to cannabis, ready to try products for the first time in a newly legal environment.
Cannabis for therapeutic purposes
Older adults may manage more medical conditions, aches, and pains as they age – many issues that can be helped with medical cannabis. Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Maryland, and dozens of other states offer medical cannabis programs, many of which allow cannabis products for the following conditions:
- Pain management: Cannabis, and particularly the phytocannabinoids delta-9 Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD), has been extensively studied for pain management. Research suggests that these phytocannabinoids interact with the endocannabinoid system (ECS) to reduce inflammation and interrupt pain signals to the brain1. Some products, like cannabis topicals, provide targeted pain relief when applied to sore joints or achy muscles, while others, such as capsules or inhaled products, offer systemic, body-wide relief.
- Sleep promotion: Cannabis, particularly with the right terpene combinations, could be effective at promoting more restful sleep. It’s important to choose low-THC products for sleep promotion, however, as too much THC can reduce time spent in the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) cycle.
- Neuroprotective properties: Early research suggests that cannabinoids might offer some cognitive support to maintain mental acuity over time. Cannabinoids, particularly CBD, are thought to offer neuroprotective benefits through their interaction with the CB2 receptor of the ECS2.
Cannabis for personal consumption
Of course, there are plenty of older adults who consume cannabis simply because they enjoy it. Many lived through the cultural shift that spurred on the legalization movement and have watched it with great enthusiasm. Many older adults who are cannabis consumers today grew up with cannabis in their communities, and many tried it (or have continued to consume it) as the legalization movement has made its gains. The old stigma, for many older adults, has already been debunked.
Even those who were familiar with cannabis but never tried it before may now feel comfortable approaching a regulated industry focused on quality and consumer safety. Not only are products required to meet strict testing standards, but visiting a local dispensary with friendly and knowledgeable staff is a much more pleasant experience than the black market approach of the past.
Moreover, a tincture, edible, or capsule may be a novel new way for older adults to consume cannabis without inhaling. This variety makes cannabis more accessible than ever for adults in all age groups, older adults included.
What older adults should know before trying cannabis
There are a few things older adults should know before trying cannabis or returning to cannabis for the first time in a while.
Not all cannabis products are the same
The type of cannabis product you choose greatly shapes your experience in terms of product onset, duration, and overall experience. The bioavailability of cannabinoids (how many are absorbed into circulation and able to take effect) varies across product types. For example, if you’re interested in instant relief, vapes might be your best choice, as inhalation offers rapid onset. If you prefer long-lasting effects, an edible might be better.
In addition to product type, the compound profile of the product you choose matters greatly. Not only does this include phytocannabinoid content, like THC and CBD, but also the combination of terpenes, aromatic and flavorful compounds that can also influence experience.
Everyone’s experience is unique
When consuming cannabis, everyone’s experience is unique. It’s clear that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to which cannabis product is best. Experiences may differ from person to person as well, so while recommendations from friend’s are all well and good, their experience might not be the same as yours.
Your personal goals and the latest research inform the product recommendations Ethos associates make. You can be sure that you’re getting the best information possible when choosing a cannabis product from an Ethos dispensary.
Start low, go slow
Modern cannabis generally has a higher THC potency than cannabis that made its way into the market decades ago3. This is due to decades of selective breeding to elevate THC levels, but it also means that cannabis products tend to be more powerful than they once were. For older adults who haven’t consumed cannabis in a long time, it’s especially important to keep this in mind.
Whenever you’re consuming a new cannabis product for the first time, you should follow the motto “start low, go slow.” This means only to consume a modest amount of your product and wait for it to take effect before deciding whether or not you want to consume more for your desired effect.
Cannabis can interact with medications
Many adults take medications; an estimated 25% of adults aged 65 and older have five different prescriptions4. It is important to check with a doctor whether cannabis might interact with any of your medications before consuming.
Cannabis test results tell a complete story beyond the label
“Back in the day,” cannabis consumers had no way of knowing exactly what was in the product they were buying. Today, the legal cannabis industry is all about transparency and quality assurance. Most states require cannabis testing for all products, the results of which are generally publicly available. Reading cannabis test results might seem daunting at first but is actually pretty easy once you know how. See our guide to understanding cannabis test results to learn more.
Older adults are a welcome part of the cannabis community
Older adults are increasingly an important part of the broader cannabis community, and the rapid growth of this segment of cannabis consumers shows that they are enthusiastically engaging in the legal cannabis industry. As consumer education efforts continue and more older adults feel welcomed into dispensaries, it is likely those numbers will continue to grow. At Ethos, our associates are always available to assist customers who have questions about which product might be best for them. Whether you are a new consumer or already familiar with cannabis, Ethos is here for you on your cannabis journey.