Recent data suggests smoking weed with your elders

seniors smoking weed: adults of all ages take a selfie

The weed world is still forming in the U.S. As it does, data is pouring in from every angle. As it turns out, aging Americans continue to be a growing demographic for the blossoming cannabis industry.

On one side, analysts seek to understand who cannabis consumers are and what kind of products they want. On the other, scientists are breaking down the plant and its compounds to understand its potential. As they do, those interested piece together each additional piece to make sense of the truth. In the case of seniors, it seems that they continue finding their way to weed, and it may be for the best.

American seniors are smoking more weed

A majority of people 50 and older have a positive association with cannabis now, according to recently published data. Additionally, over 10 percent of this age group has consumed cannabis in the last year. The seniors consuming cannabis were more apt to self-report higher pain levels and have opioid prescriptions compared to those who passed on grass.

Study authors believe this data projects that at least one in five seniors will be regula regularly by 2030. This reality may be due in part to two separate things: American seniors are the original hippies who are known to already partake, and cannabis is becoming more normalized by the day.

With these two things working together, it’s no surprise that more elders are comfortable with the plant than ever. As if that wasn’t enough, there’s also continued research that cannabis consumption may offset common side effects of aging, like memory issues.

New research on cannabis and dementia

Recently released research shows that recreational cannabis consumption may be brain-healthy, specifically for seniors. Researchers analyzed 2021 results from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) to figure it out.

The BRFSS is a telephone survey conducted in all 50 states, D.C., and three U.S. territories meant to gather information about health-related risk behaviors, chronic health conditions, and their use of preventative services. They conduct at least 40,000 surveys with U.S. citizens yearly, and this research paper utilized over 4700 of them.

In 2021, the data showed that recreational cannabis consumers 45 or older showed less subjective cognitive decline (SCD) than those who abstained. This is important because the risk of developing dementia is two times higher for those who experience SCD.

On a positive note, the odds of cognitive decline were decreased by 96 percent in those who consumed cannabis that year, according to the self-reported data. There was no correlation between the frequency of use or consumption method and better or worse odds of SCD.

These results are promising, but the study authors are quick to inform that there’s also data showing a relation between smoking weed and cognitive decline. For example, youth consumption may lead to cognitive issues in the late 20s. Look at the whole body of data rather than one study for truth.

There were also limitations to this specific research paper, like the fact that it is a snapshot of one year without reference to long-term cognitive impact.

“We do not know if non-medical cannabis leads to better cognition or the other way around if those with better cognition are more likely to use non-medical cannabis,” study author Roger Wong, Ph.D, wrote in the paper. “We need longitudinal studies to see long term if non-medical cannabis use is protecting our cognition over time. That’s something we don’t know yet, but that research is hindered since cannabis remains illegal federally.”

Both of the aforementioned studies cover aging Americans. One shows that more seniors are smoking weed than ever, and the other provides one reason as to why. Research is the best way to normalize responsible cannabis consumption and figure out how it best serves the American people.

Unfortunately, until the DEA finally rules on rescheduling, the research trickling through the system is limited. But thankfully for advocates, even the amount of research available is mostly promising.

Cara Wietstock is senior content producer of and has been working in the cannabis space since 2011. She has covered the cannabis business beat for Ganjapreneur and The Spokesman Review. You can find her living in Bellingham, Washington with her husband, son, and a small zoo of pets.