Political News for Senior Citizens

Political News for Seniors

Seniors pivotal in move to legalization and use of marijuana

Gallup and JAMA Psychiatry studies find seniors making difference in marijuana push

Marijuana leavesOct. 22, 2015 – The trend is clear – making marijuana legal in the U.S. is on the way and even senior citizens are jumping onboard. A new Gallup Poll says 35% of seniors now favor making it legal, and this helped push support among all adults to a record high 58%. JAMA Psychiatry also reports the use by U.S. adults doubled between 2001 and 2013, but the authors are raising an alarm and are urging caution.

Only 4% of senior citizens in 1969 favored making it legal, according to Gallup, which reports the 58% holding that view ties the high point in Gallup's 46-year tracking of the question.


While the majority thinks prohibition of recreational marijuana should be ended, the new JAMA study calls for the need for public education about the potential harms in marijuana use, including the risk for addiction.

“As is the case with alcohol, many individuals can use marijuana without becoming addicted. However, the clear risk for marijuana use disorders among users (approximately 30 percent) suggests that as the number of U.S. users grows, so will the numbers of those experiencing problems related to such use. This information is important to convey in a balanced manner to health care professionals, policy makers and the public,” the study concludes.

Already, 23 states have medical marijuana laws and four of these states also have legalized marijuana for recreational use.

It is also surprising that middle-aged and older Americans are among those leading the surge in the use of marijuana.

The prevalence of past-year marijuana use climbed to 9.5 percent of adults in 2012-2013 from 4.1 percent in 2001-2002, with increases particularly notable among women and individuals who were black, Hispanic, living in the South, as well as the middle-aged or older, the authors report in JAMA Psychiatry.

The prevalence of a diagnosis of a past-year marijuana use disorder (abuse or dependence) also increased to 2.9 percent in 2012-2013 from 1.5 percent in 2001-2002, which means nearly 3 of every 10 Americans who used marijuana in the past year had a diagnosis of a marijuana use disorder (approximately 6.8 million Americans).

Groups with notable increases included individuals ages 45 to 64 and those individuals who were black or Hispanic, with the lowest incomes or living in the South.

Among marijuana users, the prevalence of marijuana use disorder decreased to 30.6 percent in 2012-2013 from 35.6 percent in 2001-2002. Because there was no increase in the risk for marijuana use disorder found among users, in fact there was a decrease, the increase in prevalence of marijuana use disorders can be attributed to the increase in marijuana users between the two surveys, the authors note.

Bridget F. Grant, Ph.D., of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Rockville, Md., and coauthors used nationally representative data on past-year prevalence rates of marijuana use, marijuana use disorder and marijuana use disorder among marijuana users in the United States for the study.

Data came from the 2001-2002 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC) and the 2012-2013 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions-III (NESARC-III).

(JAMA Psychiatry. Published online October 21, 2015. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2015.1858. Available pre-embargo to the media at http://media.jamanetwork.com.)


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