The results of Australia's National Drug Strategy Household Survey made international headlines last week, as news outlets jumped on the data which some say suggests that a growing number of women are consuming cannabis daily. But an expert on cannabis issuessays the real story was overlooked: more older, than younger people are using marijuana on a regular basis.
The researchers themselves emphasized the data on women. Of the 1.9 million Australians who have smoked cannabis in the past year, 14 percent of women smoked daily, compared to 12 percent of men. In a radio interview, National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre head Jan Copeland stated women become addicted to cannabis more quickly than men.
"Estrogen seems to increase sensitivity to THC, the getting high part of cannabis, and because of that they crave to use it more often. They also have a higher tolerance, about 30 percent higher than men, which means they have more at higher doses, which puts them into the cycle of addiction."
Women aren't more prone to addiction, says expert
But Katherine Grimm - a CEO featured as an expert commentator on the marijuana industry in CNN's High Profits and holds a degree in neurobiology and physiology - tells Civilized the data doesn't support those conclusions.
"A 2014 study from Washington State University did show that female rats had a 30 percent higher sensitivity to isolated THC than their male counterparts," she explains. "But what that tells me is not that females are more prone to cannabis addiction, but rather that we need to reset our baselines as we learn more about cannabis as a whole-plant medicine."
She says the effects of isolated THC differ from those of the whole plant.
As for women being more likely to light up daily, Grimm says she's not persuaded.
"Given the sample size, the difference in the percentages isn't actually significant," says Grimm, "This study isn't saying that females are more likely to report daily consumption - rather that they are simply equally likely to report daily consumption as their male counterparts."
Besides, she continues, "Considering the large percentage of people who consume cannabis as a medicinal or a wellness product, I would absolutely expect to see daily or weekly consumption. No one blinks an eye if I'm taking a daily Xanax. As a medicine, isn't that the point?"
The really interesting storyline? Seniors consume more cannabis
More interesting than the gender data, says Grimm, is what the survey reveals about the age groups regularly consuming cannabis.
"It seems to increase with age: 47 percent of cannabis consumers over 60 are likely to report daily or weekly consumption compared with only 28 percent of consumers in their 20s," she says.
She also notes that the study shows how people consume less alcohol with age, stressing the health benefits of switching from alcohol to cannabis.
"We see an increase with age in the numbers of those who report being ex-drinkers, with up to 15% of women over 65 reporting not drinking anymore," she says.
"It's a great thing from a health perspective. When I, for example, replace my daily glass of wine with a joint, I don't find myself dealing with alcohol withdrawal in the morning and dragging myself around for hours until I recover. When you consider about cannabis as a whole, it doesn't pose the risk that alcohol does."
Grimm says that's a positive thing for the overall wellness of our seniors.
"When I picture a bunch of 60-year-old women putting down the glass of wine and picking up a joint instead, I think that's pretty awesome," says Grimm. "Rock on, Grandma."
With that in mind, we have to re-share this much-loved video about grandmothers smoking marijuana for the first time.