According to a recent study in the Upstart Business Journal, reports showed that medical and recreational marijuana industry as one of the fastest growing in the United States, largely because of the Baby Boomers whose pot consumption is expected to grow faster than any other demographic of pot users.
More than 110.9 million Americans over 50 are expected to be using marijuana, with the potential for that number to rise by seven percent in the following five years, according to a recent study done by global research firm IBISWorld.
Now that Baby Boomers are lighting up legally, the anticipated growth of the recreational marijuana industry is expected to soar another 30%. After all, boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) represent close to one-quarter of the U.S. population.
Reasons for increased usage among Baby Boomers include the aches and pains that come along with aging,more free time, more disposable income, legalization of medical cannabis and the rise in popularity of edibles. Research suggests that seniors are more likely to partake in marijuana edibles like brownies or pot-laced beverages because of adversions to smoking.
There are also those who are finding marijuana again after lengthy hiatus due to legalization in their state. Another reason for returning to pot? Grown children and lessened work related responsibilities. A Wall Street Journal article described a “Woodstock mentality” that’s causing aging Americans to carry their youthful drug habits with them into middle age. Not surprisingly, boomers aged 50 to 64 have lower rates of drug use overall than their younger contemporaries but an increased rate of marijuana and alcohol consumption when looked at individually.
So the use of some drugs may be less common among boomers than other age groups, but it’s still surprisingly frequent for users in the 50 and over crowd. 20 states already have legalized marijuana for medical purposes, while Colorado and Washington state have made recreational marijuana legal. Fully three quarters of Americans have told pollsters that they now see legalization for recreational use as inevitable, according to Martin A. Lee, director of Project CBD, a medical marijuana information service, and author of “Smoke Signals,” a social history of marijuana.
“On a cultural level, the debate is virtually over,” said Lee. “It’s widely recognized that marijuana has health benefits. For baby boomers who got high in the ’60s and ’70s, their experience was largely benign. And now it’s becoming mainstream. It’s not just long-haired rebels and stoners. It’s Mom and Dad, Republicans and Democrats, a real slice of America.”
Marijuana’s use for medicinal purposes dates back to ancient China. In the United States, it was used in a variety of treatments from the 1850s to the 1930s. During prohibition the plant was formally removed from the US Dispensatory, a compendium of medicines, in 1942. But after a resurgence among hippies and college students in the 1960s, it emerged as a popular, though illegal, treatment in the 1980s for AIDS patients who found it could dull pain, stimulate appetite, and relieve nausea. That inspired a campaign to legalize or decriminalize medical marijuana in California and other states.
Studies project the growth of a $10 billion legal marijuana industry by 2018, and entrepreneurs and investors are scrambling to capitalize. In addition to growers and sellers, support services and enabling technologies have been cropping up in the emerging niche. Boomers’ enthusiasm for weed is likely due to the fact that they were the first generation to experience widely recognized marijuana use in their youth. Almost everyone smoked it or knew someone who had. Research suggests many of them gave it up not because they didn’t like it anymore, but because they felt it might interfere in their efforts to raise families and maintain jobs where drug testing is a concern. Legal and salary ramifications are much more significant once you have a family to raise and support. Now that this worry is gone for many, marijuana use among boomers is a welcome addition to their daily life.