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Older Americans hold positive perceptions about the use of cannabis, according to survey data published in the Journal of Primary Care & Community Health.

Researchers affiliated with St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia surveyed subjects’ attitudes and beliefs about cannabis use. All of the survey’s participants were at least 65 years of age.

Eighty-three percent of participants said that cannabis is “less harmful to a person’s health compared to alcohol” and 67 percent said that it is a “highly important treatment for older adults.”

Commenting on the findings, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: “It is not surprising that a rising percentage of seniors consider cannabis to a viable option in their later years. Many seniors struggle with pain, anxiety, restless sleep, and other conditions for which cannabis products often mitigate. Moreover, many seniors are well aware of the litany of serious adverse side-effects associated with available prescription drugs, like opioids or sleep aids, and they perceive medical cannabis to be a practical and potentially safer alternative.”

Seventy-nine percent of those surveyed said that they would be “very comfortable” discussing the issue with their primary care providers. However, fewer than one-in-four said that their physicians had ever spoken with them about cannabis.

Numerous prior surveys have reported that health professionals remain reluctant to engage in conversations with their patients about the use of medical cannabis, and many acknowledge having received insufficient training on the subject.

The study’s authors concluded: “This study highlights the growing interest of older adults in the use of cannabis for medical purposes. … However, it is unclear whether PCPs have the necessary knowledge and support to meet the increasing demand for cannabis-related information from their patients. Therefore, further research is needed to identify the availability of reliable information and support for PCPs as the demand for medical cannabis use among older adults continues to rise.”

Survey data indicates that the percentage of Americans age 65 and older who acknowledge using cannabis has increased significantly over the past two decades. Polling data compiled by Pew finds that 86 percent of those age 65 and older believe that cannabis should be legalized for either medical or recreational use.

An abstract of the study, “Attitudes, beliefs, and perceptions on cannabis among older adults aged 65 and older: A cross-sectional survey,” appears in the Journal of Primary Care & Community Health. Additional information is available from NORML’s fact-sheet, ‘Cannabis Use by Older Adult Populations.’

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