Are senior stoners really driving the marijuana economy?
While most people’s image of the stereotypical marijuana user is a 20-something slacker munching Doritos in front of his parents’ TV, the reality is that the 50 and older crowd (AKA the Senior Stoners) are one of the fastest demographics among marijuana users.
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It only makes sense that the baby boomer generation would be open to marijuana use. After all, this is their second “dance” with Mary Jane, as they grew up in the ’60s and ’70s, when getting high was the norm.
The National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported in 2011 that 6.3 percent of adults between the ages of 50 and 59 used marijuana.
That number has risen from 2.7 percent in 2002. But experts are quick to point out that the government numbers skew far lower than the number of actual marijuana users, due to both the perceived stigma of marijuana use and the reluctance of the public to admit illegal activity to a survey taker.
Author Cheri Sicard, a Senior Stoner herself, believes the actual number to be at least three times higher (no pun intended), if not more.
Perhaps the most realistic look at the number of older marijuana users comes from those who legally sell cannabis.
Karl Keich, founder of the Seattle Medical Marijuana Association, a collective garden in Washington State, has been quoted as saying half the people coming into his shop are seniors, a sentiment echoed by many dispensary managers in California, Oregon, and Colorado.
Senior Barbara Ayala, who manages Apothecary Genetics, a medical marijuana collective near the nation’s largest retirement community in Laguna Woods, CA, says that a whopping 90% of her clientele are in the 50 and older crowd. In fact most of Ayala's clients are over aged 65!
“It only makes sense that boomers and seniors are a major driving force in the cannabis economy,” says Sicard, “after all they are the major driving force in ALL consumerism. Seniors own over 60% of all American financial assets and they spend over $3 trillion annually.”
Sicard, who is also author of Mary Jane: The Complete Marijuana Handbook for Women (2015, Seal Press), believes that just like many of the taboos about weed and women have been falling away in the last few years, the same is happening for boomers and seniors now.
Sicard claims that while cannabis can definitely be a great multi-generational unifier, the older generation tends to be more discreet about their use.
“We’ve lived with the societal stigma surrounding the war on weed longer – from Reefer Madness, to ‘Just Say No,’ to D.A.R.E,” she says.
“The need for secrecy is ingrained in many boomers, especially those who have experienced arrest or incarceration over the issue, or know someone who has.”
Nonetheless, things are changing quickly and Sicard predicts that as marijuana use becomes more mainstream, and the public becomes more educated about the safety and benefits of cannabis, the more comfortable the older generation will feel about talking about coming out as senior stoners.
Until then, it’s impossible to have a true national snap shot of just how many cannabis consumers there are and their ages, but anecdotal evidence of the older generation driving the marijuana economy is strong.