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The Boomers’ Guide to Cannabis Today

By Tracy Howard

This isn’t the herb you used in the ’60s — what you need to know.

Remember when cannabis use was synonymous with ’60s counterculture and events like 1969’s Woodstock, where blissed-out young people listened to the likes of Hendrix, Joplin and Jefferson Airplane, danced naked, hooked up with strangers and smoked a lot of weed? (At the time, The New York Times estimated 99 per cent of that festival’s attendees were smoking marijuana.)

It’s an eye-opener to realize that era was almost 50 years ago, and those crazy kids are now entering their 70s. Yes, the flower children now have grandchildren, and instead of using substances to “turn on, tune in and drop out,” they’re more likely to be seeking remedies to help tune out aches and turn off the pain.

Volkswagen bus in blue in flower bush

Photo by Benjamin Shanks

If you’re a boomer and use cannabis you’re hardly alone. A secondary analysis of the U.S.-based National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that from 2006 to 2013, cannabis use among American seniors increased by 250 per cent.

And a study by Statistics Canada published in 2017 suggests, on average, cannabis consumers in this country tend to be older and consume more per year than the average consumer did in the 1960s and 1970s.

According to the report: “The compositional change in the cannabis market is consistent with a change where the baby boomer cohort was exposed to cannabis in high school and university and carried a preference for cannabis consumption with them as they aged.”

Below are some other seeds of wisdom about the “mature” use of cannabis today:

  • Among the most popular medical uses of cannabis are for the relief of some age-related health concerns, including chronic pain, insomnia, Alzheimer’s, arthritis, glaucoma and gastrointestinal issues.
  • Despite connotations of marijuana with being “baked,” studies have shown medical cannabis may actually boost brain function in the elderly. In a 2017 study at the University of Bonn in Germany, low doses of THC were given to young, mature and elderly mice. Before the THC was introduced, the older groups did significantly worse on cognitive tests than the younger group, but after taking it, the two older groups performed better than the younger mice.
  • If the last time you tried cannabis was passing around a grungy joint in your high school buddy’s basement, you’ll be amazed at how sophisticated cannabis has become. Your old spliff has been replaced with elegant vape pens and portable vaporizers, and cannabis-related products include tinctures. In some U.S. states where cannabis use is legal, you’ll also find gourmet edibles and teas, as well as skin-care and massage creams.
Cannabis display with leaves, fruits, and crystal/wooden pipes

Photo by Kimberly Nanney

  • Many boomers are part of the sandwich generation, that is, people taking care of both their kids and aging parents, and subsequently facing abundant stressors and a need for relief. Since studies, like one published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry in 2017, show boomers are more likely to use alternative medicine for mental disorders than previous generations; the appeal of cannabis-related products, such as those with non-psychoactive CBD, seems a no-brainer. 

Much has changed in the world of cannabis since the original Woodstock. The plant that symbolized a generational divide and an act of youthful rebellion has like the boomer generation itself, matured into a relevant and in many cases, effective treatment for a wide variety of medical conditions. Of course, the real question is… how many still like listening to the Grateful Dead while they take their medicine?

A writer, editor and content director, Tracy Howard specializes in lifestyle, wellness, profiles and travel. She’s contributed to Today’s Parent, Flare, mindbodygreen, the Toronto Star, and was the launch editor of CAA Magazine.

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