NADA: Embrace Legalized Pot for Seniors

With new polls showing Americans between 18 and 49 years old have significantly higher support for legalizing marijuana than those over 50, the NACI is urging people to to build their support for senior…

NADA: Embrace Legalized Pot for Seniors

With new polls showing Americans between 18 and 49 years old have significantly higher support for legalizing marijuana than those over 50, the NACI is urging people to to build their support for senior citizens.

A recent POLITICO/Morning Consult poll showed 64 percent of Americans support making marijuana legal for adults of all ages. By comparison, 34 percent oppose legalizing marijuana use.

Even younger people have witnessed the transformative effects of legal marijuana. The poll also showed that 48 percent of respondents aged 18 to 49 years old favored making cannabis legal for adults, while just 35 percent of respondents over 50 had a similar view.

“As a whole, young people are way ahead of the curve here,” said John Hudak, deputy director of the Brookings Institution’s Poverty and Integration Project. “There is a recognition that smoking cannabis is an act of all-encompassing recreational consumption.”

Though many younger Americans prefer a few joints to a line at Starbucks, some aging Baby Boomers are not so gung-ho on the idea of smoking blunts (the smoked form of cannabis). According to a 2016 poll by the National Institute on Aging, 50 percent of Americans between 60 and 69 percent approved of marijuana legalization, while just 10 percent of Americans aged 70 and older were in favor.

Hudak said this gap is not due to lack of knowledge. “I do think for all of these different groups –- Boomers, Asian Americans, young people and older people –- that’s a lack of opportunity to have conversations about marijuana and other health topics,” he said.

“There is a belief that certain health issues are caused by using cannabis.”

But he said the NACI, a group based out of Washington D.C., recently offered some advice to the over-50 crowd.

“The NACI is making a very nice pitch to older people that they need to have conversations about marijuana use. That’s the sweet spot,” Hudak said.

The nongovernmental association runs an adult smoking cessation hotline. The organization’s website adds that people ages 18 to 39 should not use marijuana and people ages 50 and older should avoid tobacco.

NACI recommends that smokers 50 and older should inform their doctors. They say smoking marijuana could lead to stroke, Alzheimer’s, heart disease and cancer, all of which could be fatal.

Just as young adults in favor of legalizing marijuana do, older Americans have different concerns. A recent poll by the advocacy group Healthy Kids Colorado showed that 50 percent of voters there supported legalizing marijuana. It says marijuana is being used by children and young adults who otherwise would have used tobacco.

Dr. Michael DiNicolantonio, director of medical affairs at Colorado Wesleyan University and the executive director of the Union of Concerned Physicians, agrees with the Colorado number, saying they gathered 23,000 new cancer patients since recreational marijuana was legalized in that state.

But DiNicolantonio also says studies have shown marijuana can reduce the risk of lung cancer in some circumstances.

An article in The Lancet concluded that long-term heavy marijuana use, “should not alter clinical relationships to tobacco smoking.”

While most doctors agree that people over the age of 50 should not smoke, there are those who disagree with that advice.

Hudak said it’s up to each doctor, but he said some doctors would probably feel that older people are more likely to have difficulty with marijuana.

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