Senior Marijuana Use Doubles While Teen Use Declines One-Quarter

Senior Marijuana Use Doubles While Teen Use Declines One-Quarter

By Russ Belville - May 31, 2016

SCOTTSDALE, Arizona – Analysis by Cannabis Radio News has found that in the dozen years between 2002 and 2014, senior marijuana use has doubled while use by minor teenagers has dropped by over a quarter.

Our analysis uses the federal government’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health for the years 2002 and 2014 (the most recent data available).

In the 2002 survey, 26.8 percent of minors aged 12 to 17 and 16.6 percent of seniors aged 50 and older admitted to using marijuana.

In the 2014 survey, 19.5 percent of minors and 36.5 percent of seniors admitted to using marijuana, a decline of 27.2 percent in the minor use rate and an increase of 119.9 percent in the senior use rate.

In raw numbers, there were 3.35 million teen marijuana users and 2.12 million senior marijuana users in 2002, versus 3.30 million teens and 6.56 million seniors in 2014.

The numbers for other age groups are also revealing. While there are 2 million more annual marijuana users aged 18 to 25 in the 2014 survey, the rate of use actually declined for young adults from 72 percent to 64 percent.

There are 2.4 million more cannabis consumers aged 26-34 in 2014, but the rate of use held relatively steady, from 41.1 percent to 43.5 percent.

There are 1.2 million more middle-aged consumers between 35 and 49, and their rate of consumption decreased from 43.4 percent to 36.5 percent, the same rate as the 50-and-older seniors.

At the beginning of this span, there were just seven states that had legalized medical use of cannabis. No state had legalized adult-use (recreational) marijuana and Nevada had just rejected a marijuana legalization initiative with just 39 percent of the vote.

By the end of 2014, 23 states had medical cannabis programs, 10 states had allowed for medical cannabidiol (CBD-only) use, and 4 states had legalized adult-use marijuana.

In 1999, Rep. Bill McCullum of Florida argued that medical marijuana legalization was “sending the wrong message to our youth.”

In 2000, Former Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey argued that “legalization would send a strong message that taking drugs is a safe and socially accepted behavior … [that] would play a major role in softening youth attitudes and, ultimately, increasing drug use.”

In 2005, the Deputy Chief of NYPD’s Narcotics Division, Edmund Hartnett wrote that legalization, “lead to more experimentation by youth.

Even as recently as 2013, the last Drug Czar, Gil Kerlikowske, was saying, “We are certainly not sending a very good message when we call it medicine and legalize it.”

Yet for all this legalization of medical and adult-use marijuana, we’ve gone from three teenage marijuana users for every two seniors in 2002 to three teenage marijuana users for every six seniors in 2014. Teenage user numbers have actually declined by over 50,000 while triple the number of seniors are using marijuana. We’ve gone from over a quarter of teens using to under a fifth just as we’ve gone from a sixth of seniors using to over a third.

Additionally, analysis of the Monitoring the Future government surveys of high school seniors shows that, for the first time in forty years, fewer than 80 percent of 12th graders find it “easy” or “fairly easy” to access marijuana. The rate has been as high as 90 percent.

It seems that if there was any message about marijuana received by the youth through state legalization of medical and adult use, it’s that marijuana is for older people.

Teen and Senior Marijuana Use 2002