You may not see older adults lighting one up in movies and TV shows, but adults aged 55 and older are one of the fastest-growing demographics of cannabis consumers in the U.S. They’re choosing cannabis for a number of reasons, whether for health or pain relief or simply enjoying cannabis during downtime. And whatever your reasons for choosing cannabis as an older adult, one thing’s for sure: Cannabis has changed quite a lot in the last few decades.
Whether you’re trying cannabis for the first time, coming back to the dispensary after a lengthy break, or you regularly enjoy cannabis, this guide to seniors and cannabis covers all the things you need to know.
Why are seniors choosing cannabis?
As cannabis legalization reduces the stigma surrounding the plant, more older adults are consuming than ever before — some for the first time. But what are the major reasons driving them to try it in the first place? There’s a mix of medical and recreational motivations leading this demographic to cannabis.
A survey of 518 medical cannabis patients conducted by the University of California San Diego School of Medicine found that seniors consume cannabis for pain management, improved sleep, and managing anxiety or depression. And while there are undoubtedly many who’ve had experience with cannabis in the past, the study found 61% began consuming cannabis after turning 60.
In addition, data from Equio by New Frontier Data suggests that adults ages 55 and older found that pain management and relaxation were the overwhelming primary reasons seniors are choosing cannabis. In fact, those two reasons were the top stated motivation for half of all U.S. consumers in that demographic.
Reduced cannabis stigma
Cannabis stigma in the U.S. is a byproduct of a near-century of Prohibition on the state and federal levels. However, the decades-long efforts at decriminalization and legalization have borne fruit. With diminishing stigma, many older adults who grew up in the shadow of the War on Drugs feel like they can now explore cannabis.
As the legalization movement has advanced, research and education around cannabis has proliferated as well, dispelling many of the “reefer madness” era myths about the plant. In turn, many seniors who never considered trying cannabis before have become comfortable giving it a shot. Plus, it’s never been easier to access cannabis – in 39 states, older adults can walk into a medical or adult-use dispensary and order what they need.
Take fewer painkillers
Delta-9 THC and CBD are among the phytocannabinoids in cannabis that interact with your endocannabinoid system (ECS), a system in your body that governs many things, including pain perception. Some terpenes in cannabis, like beta caryophyllene, limonene, and myrcene, can help alleviate pain. While more studies are needed, research suggests that cannabis could offer mild to moderate pain relief. Studies have found that terpenes may offer therapeutic potential for managing neuropathic pain as well.
Improved sleep quality
If sleep feels elusive, cannabis can be helpful in several ways. Not only have studies shown that CBD could help with insomnia, but THC and other cannabinoids can help with common conditions seniors have, like neuropathy and chronic pain, that make sleep so difficult.
While cannabis may offer some benefits for more restful sleep, it’s important to note that might not always be the case. For example, THC could sometimes have a stimulating effect, and research suggests that it may disrupt the rapid eye movement (REM) sleep cycle. So if you want to try cannabis for sleep, opt for a low-THC product or something with a more even THC to CBD ratio.
Cannabis can help alleviate symptoms associated with anxiety. Research shows that CBD is effective at reducing stress and anxiety at all amounts, and low amounts of THC are as well. But it’s important to take it easy when trying cannabis for anxiety: Too much THC could heighten anxiety. Try small amounts of THC or products with a relatively even THC:CBD ratio for this purpose.
It’s a misconception that older adults consume cannabis solely for medical purposes. In many cases, seniors simply want to enjoy cannabis to relax, socialize, create art, or any other reason. And of course, there’s nothing wrong with that!
What should seniors be aware of before trying cannabis?
Cannabis is a complex plant, which means there are some important things to keep in mind before picking your products.
- Potential medication interactions: The older you get, the more likely you are to take multiple, daily medications. If that’s true for you, consult with your doctor before consuming cannabis. That’s because cannabis can interact with medications, causing unwanted side effects or rendering them ineffective. This is particularly concerning for blood thinners, some blood pressure medications, seizure medications, and anti-anxiety medications, among other categories.
- Chance of dizziness: Changes in blood pressure and cerebral blood flow could lead to dizziness and lack of balance, increasing fall risk. Consume cannabis while seated. Get up slowly and don’t rush when it’s time to get up to see how it affects your balance.
- Differences in cultivars and product types: Not all cultivars (or strains) of cannabis are the same. Different varieties may have very different effects, so it’s important to understand the differences between them before consuming. Similarly, different types of cannabis products may work differently depending on their route of administration. For example, edibles take a lot longer to take effect than inhaled forms of cannabis, but those effects generally last much longer as well. Picking the right cultivar and product type for your needs is a key consideration in the dispensary.
Keeping these factors in mind is important to choosing the right cannabis product and having a positive experience, especially if you’re new (or newly returning) to cannabis. If you’re not sure whether a product is right for you, just ask — our friendly dispensary personnel are happy to guide you based on your needs.
Not just bud: What are your product options?
Cannabis is more than just smoking dried flower; there are a range of product types available, each of which are well-suited to different applications and experiences. Here’s a look at some of the most common product types you’ll find in Michigan dispensaries like Iconic Wellness.
- Tinctures: Tinctures are potent cannabis products that can be orally ingested. They’re absorbed through your mouth and your digestive system for fast-acting, long-lasting effects.
- Topicals: Topicals provide localized relief without the intoxicating effects, making them perfect for managing joint pain throughout the day. Topicals are best paired with cannabis you ingest or inhale.
- RSO: Rick Simpson Oil is an activated, orally ingested cannabis product known for its potency. You only need a tiny amount to feel the effects.
- Edibles: Gummies, candies, “pot brownies,” and beverages are among the many edible options you’ll find at the dispensary. They offer a long duration of effects for lasting relief.
- Vapes: Convenient and clean vapes don’t require rolling or grinding, and they provide a less harsh inhaling experience.
- Concentrates: Concentrates are highly potent cannabis products that come in many forms, suitable for medical cannabis patients and high tolerance consumers alike. These are not for beginners, so try concentrates only after you’ve developed some familiarity with cannabis – and some tolerance to THC.
Not just joints: How else can you smoke?
There’s way more than one method for inhaling cannabis. Some other methods you may want to try out include:
- Vape pens: These small batteries connect to vape cartridges filled with concentrated cannabis oil. They’re easy to use, discreet, and require no lighter.
- Portable vaporizers: Convenient and discreet portable vaporizers heat up flower without ash and minimal smell.
- Disposable vaporizers: Like portable vaporizers but without the maintenance, disposable vaporizers are intended for consumption until empty, when they’re disposed of.
- Desktop vaporizers: These large, powerful, stationary appliances vaporize dried cannabis flower at home with ease.
- Dab rigs: Intended for use with concentrates like shatter or wax, dab rigs are glass pipes that feature a metal nail, which can be heated to instantly vaporize any extract applied to it.
If you’re interested in vaping cannabis, there are a whole range of devices and concentrates for you to learn about and choose from.
Bring your questions to Iconic Wellness & Provisioning
Still have canna-questions? Head to your preferred Iconic location and bring your thoughts to a budtender. Explore something new or stick with a tried-and-true classic.
And if it’s just the classic flower that you want, our deli style cannabis selection allows you to choose the exact bud you bring home, allowing you to examine and smell it before buying. Whatever your reasons for consuming, we’re here to help make every your next session truly iconic.