While the common idea of a marijuana consumer is the stereotypical stoner – young, unattached, irresponsible – the spread of legalization combined with recent medical research has led to a greying of the traditional cannabis demographics. Though younger generations are pushing marijuana into the mainstream, older Americans are beginning to shake off the effects of Reefer Madness and are coming around to the benefits of marijuana.
According to a recent Pew Research poll, support for full marijuana legalization among Baby Boomers has reached 50%, quickly approaching the approval rating held by Generation X.
“My story is the story of so many people who use each day. And so what? What’s the issue? What will it lead to?”
Certainly there are some people that have been consuming consistently through their lives despite legal and social prohibitions, like Catherine Hiller who recently published a book recounting a lifetime of smoking marijuana. A smoker for the better part 50 years – taking breaks for pregnancy – Hiller sought to break the taboo associated with the drug by telling her story of a life lived mostly normally.
“I wanted to show people that smoking marijuana did not make me hit rock bottom,” Hiller, 68, said. “My story is the story of so many people who use each day. And so what? What’s the issue? What will it lead to?”
Yet more of this cannabis resurgence is made up of folks that smoked recreationally in their youth and gave it up as they prioritized career and family. Alec Tyson, senior researcher of the Pew study, puts it this way: “Lifecycle is part of it. They went from young adults to parents and adults with family and the times had something to do with it. There was the famous war on drugs under the Reagan Administration and the 1960s and 1970s were a different time in this country than the 1980s. The political climate of the country and rhetoric coming from leaders has some impact."
“They’re like kids in a candy store. They come in and they’re, like, 55 and they’re blown away by the options.”
Now that the war on drugs is waning – with general support increasing across demographics and with decriminalization and legalization spreading throughout the country – these smokers are returning and finding a market unbelievably more robust than the one they left. “They’re like kids in a candy store,” said Alison Ledden, marketing director at The Farm, a dispensary in Boulder, Colorado. “They come in and they’re, like, 55 and they’re blown away by the options.”
Still other older consumers are seniors interested in the medicinal possibilities that have been unveiled in the last two decades. As a pain reliever, and as a treatment for a whole host of illnesses medical cannabis is often an alternative that is natural, does not carry the dangers of prescription painkillers, and without the debilitating side effects of pharmaceuticals.
The San Francisco Gate writes of a cannabis club at the Rossmoor senior community in Walnut Creek, California, “… club members quickly bonded over their shared disappointment in pharmaceuticals they had been prescribed. Either the pills weren’t helping them or the side effects were more onerous than their actual ailments.”
For a variety of reasons older consumers are increasingly coming around to the growing legal marijuana industry. Culturally and economically this generation will have an enormous impact on how marijuana is seen and sold, and cannabis companies would be wise to realize this and make an active effort to cater to this booming market.