Every parent fears the day their high school kid becomes too cool to hang out with them. But now parents may be too cool for their kids. According to the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 6.7% of Americans aged 55 to 64 use cannabis on a monthly basis. The same report found that among teenagers (ages 12-17), 6.5% were consuming marijuana monthly. That difference, while small, was within the study’s margin of error.
As cannabis becomes more and more acceptable in the mainstream, we’re witnessing older demographics embrace marijuana in ways old and new. For some, it’s their first experience with the plant. Others, particularly those who lived through the Summer of Love and hippie 70s, are returning to cannabis after many years away. That could explain why, in a recently released report, BDS Analytics determined the baby boomer generation—which includes anyone born between 1946 to 1964—as an “important and growing segment” of cannabis consumers.
Though this older generation tends to be more “medically focused,” Leah Spokojny of BDS Analytics told the Chicago Sun-Times, that doesn’t disqualify them as recreational users. Instead, this group explores alternative consumption methods like topicals and edibles in states with legalized marijuana. Often, non-smokable marijuana products tend to be more approachable to this group, said Spokojny, who serves as director of account management at the company.
“Once the state becomes fully legal they get access to all of these new product formats,” said Spokojny.
While a healthy portion of boomers have “consumed in the past,” as Spokojny added, their voting records don’t always indicate a positive relationship over the years. Last September, a Pew Research Center Poll found that in total 62% of Americans supported marijuana legalization. But that number was lower for baby boomers, with only 54% of the group for legalization.
Believe it or not, that figure actually reflects how baby boomers felt about cannabis legalization in the 1970s. As Pew reported, 47% of boomers endorsed legalization in 1978. But we saw those numbers drop all the way to 17% in 1990, before rising to levels we see today.
Meanwhile, as legalization drives boomers as an important consumer demographic, it also discourages teen use. Both Washington state and Denver teenagers report using cannabis less than they did prior to legalization. A study published in JAMA Pediatrics earlier this year also found that legalization did more to dissuade teen use than encourage it.
“Consistent with the results of previous researchers, there was no evidence that the legalization of medical marijuana encourages marijuana use among youth,” researchers concluded. “Moreover, the estimates…showed that marijuana use among youth may actually decline after legalization for recreational purposes.”