Medical marijuana has been legalized in some shape or form in 29 states. While many cannabis opponents feared that legalization would increase use among teens, it would appear that it’s senior citizens whose use has dramatically increased.
A recent article from The New York Times takes an in-depth look at this phenomenon, which has spread into retirement communities and nursing homes throughout the United States.
The extensive piece includes the story of Ruth Brunn, a 98-year-old residing in the Hebrew Home at Riverdale in New York City. She takes legal cannabis oil pills to deal with her neuropathy, and has never used marijuana until now.
Some senior citizen communities have even started support clubs for medical cannabis consumption. In the Rossmoor Walnum Creek retirement community in San Francisco, their medical marijuana education and support club boasts 530 members. In the state of Washington, dozens of assisted living facilities are providing formal medical marijuana policies for their residents.
But there are still many obstacles that many senior citizens must overcome in order to obtain medical cannabis. Since nursing homes are regulated by the federal government, many establishments have refrained from allowing cannabis use even in states with robust medical programs, primarily due to fears of losing Medicare and Medicaid funding.
Another issue is the lack of research on how marijuana impacts older users in particular, making it difficult for doctors to prescribe a proper dosage for senior citizens. With reluctance from both doctors and nursing home communities, many elder users have had a difficult time getting their hands on medical cannabis.
Regardless of these hurdles, use among senior citizens is at an all-time high. A research study from December 2016 shows that between 2006/07 and 2012/13, marijuana consumption for adults aged 50 to 64 increased 57.8%, while use by those aged 65 and older skyrocketed 250%.
With increased use among the elderly comes increased awareness by both patients and healthcare providers. For instance, the medical provider group AMDA (The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine) will host a “Marijuana 101” lesson at their upcoming annual conference in March, helping to teach about the benefits and risks of cannabis use.
As legalization seeps into every corner of the country, you can expect medical marijuana use in nursing homes and retirement communities to continue to increase well into the future.