Seniors fastest growing group of cannabis users

Dec 20, 2019

According to the recently published third quarter of the National Cannabis Survey released by Statistics Canada, Seniors aged 65 years and older are the age group showing the most growth in cannabis usage. The results reported in the survey show that during the second and third quarters of 2019, there were approximately 578,000 new cannabis users (users who reported trying cannabis for the first time in the past three months). These data show that today there are 10 times more seniors using cannabis compared to 2012, when only 40,000 seniors reported using cannabis.

Interestingly, the results of the survey also demonstrated that first-time cannabis use increases with age. Approximately 10% of cannabis users aged 25 to 44 were new users, compared to (27%) of cannabis consumers aged 65 and older.

Earlier this year, the Cambridge Council on Aging hosted an expert panel to address significant knowledge gaps regarding the risks and benefits of cannabis for older adults who are taking other medication. In January 2019, Sharon Livingtsone, chair of the council, had already pointed out that cannabis use was becoming more common among older adults.

“What we have heard through the Waterloo Region Integrated Drug Strategy, who are the experts in the area, is that the fastest growing group using cannabis and medical marijuana are older adults.Our experience with older adults is that they’re really smart folks so if we give them the information, they’ll figure it out and use it.”

Sharon Livingstone, Chair of Cambridge Council on Aging, to CBC News.

 The survey data also reveals that about half of the older cannabis users consumed cannabis for medical reasons, with the remaining seniors categorizing their consumption as recreational use (24%) and both medical and non-medical reasons (24%). Moreover, seniors were more likely to buy their cannabis from legal sources. The report states that approximately 28% of cannabis users (1.4 million Canadians) reported obtaining the cannabis they consumed from a legal source, and consumers aged 65 years and older (41% of users) being the most likely to use only legally-obtained cannabis, compared with about one-quarter of younger consumers (23% to 29%).

Interestingly, prior to cannabis legalization, older Canadians were more negative about cannabis compared to the national average. According to pre-legalization polls, Canadian seniors were less likely to report that they would try cannabis when it becomes legal, while being more likely to oppose legalization.