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Poll Shows Americans Over 55 Support Legalizing Marijuana. But Will They Try It?

Is your aging mom constantly spying on the neighbours and getting paranoid? Is your dad bored, laid up with back pain, sitting around the house too much? Maybe it's time to (carefully) see what they think of medical marijuana.

In our inaugural Civilized Cannabis Culture Poll of 1,050 Americans, 42 percent of Americans over age 55 believed that cannabis use should be legalized; despite the support, however, many boomers remain reticent to try it themselves. Denver-based author Laurel Dewey, who spent over a year interviewing medicinal marijuana users for her book, Betty's (Little Basement) Garden and does consulting on cannabis-related issues: we asked her what arguments might be likely to persuade the older set to give cannabis a shot.

1. "Try this topical cream"

Creams, ointments, and tinctures are less intimidating to intro-level users than a big ol' bong, or even a pan of brownies. After speaking to two dozen medical users between the ages of 55 and 82, Dewey was surprised to learn that seniors looking to try cannabis almost never started with ingestibles: "They wanted to be safe," she says, "so they started with topicals...then they'd get a little braver. No one wanted to vaporize or smoke it - there was this real pushback."

2. "You don't have to smoke it"

"They were terrified the first time they did it. They would never touch a joint," says Dewey. "A lot of their fears are so much worse than actually doing it unless they're going to eat a huge brownie. If you stick with a vape you're fine and able to handle it: for the most part, they said their fears were so much worse than the actual experience. Stigma is all about fear, and that's all they get fed back to them. That's why they get nervous." An appropriate first-time dose, reminders than no one has ever died of cannabis use, and some background reading about strains can go a long way.

3. "Did you and dad ever try it back in the day?"

If you suspect mom and dad had a puff or two back on that honeymoon trip to Hawaii, they're more likely to experiment again in their golden years if it's legal. Over half (53%) of respondents in our inaugural Civilized Cannabis Culture Poll, Americans who had used cannabis before, but no longer do, say they would try it again if it were legal in their state. While legalization might entice ex-users, folks who've never tried it are more inclined to remain set in their ways. A large majority (82 percent) of those who have never used cannabis say they wouldn't consume it even if it was legal - which isn't to say it's impossible. Says Dewey of the older users she encountered, "on the whole, they were pretty conservative - people who'd had very responsible positions, engineers, accountants - not like liberal hippies from the 60s."

4. "I'll leave you this - do whatever you want with it"

It's possible that your parents are drying to try it - they just don't want you to know about it. One woman Dewey talked to really enjoyed taking a small dose of 5mg THC before a social gathering, but didn't disclose it to her friends because she was "concerned about how they would look at her, the jokes, and all that stuff she wasn't interested in dealing with." In our poll, 41 percent of cannabis consumers surveyed reported wanting to hide it from their children, even when those children were fully grown. One way to make them a little more comfortable is to leave a clearly-marked tincture or vape pen (with instructions) somewhere safe in their possession, and let them do what they want with it. Ensure you explain clearly what you're doing: the last thing you want is to end up like this guy and the woman who inadvertently consumed what he made.

5. "The doctor doesn't want you to drink"

"A lot of seniors are taking medications where it's discouraged you drink on them," says Dewey, "One woman who had been using cannabis strictly for arthritic pain found when she did go to a social gathering, she was less pulled-back and more present." The woman, 68, took a tiny 5mg dose of THC that allowed her to set her anxiety aside and "absorb what she was experiencing, rather than seeing it through the glaze of alcohol." says Dewey.

6. "It'll help you feel less anxious"

"As people get older, they can manufacture a lot of stress," says Dewey, who found social anxiety was a problem for seniors who had lost their spouses, or felt out of the loop. "You create it: it's just a fact that older people do that. The phrase that I kept hearing [among older people who had tried cannabis] was that it "cut the chatter in their head: I'm no good, I'm too old, or whatever, and made them feel more confident. It wasn't like a false confidence that you get from 3 bottles of booze, it was confidence, a sense that you can do it. And that is a huge thing for seniors, who can so easily become shut-ins. They said over and other again how much it reduced the stress, then by virtue of that they felt more able to have fulfilling interactions."

7. "It's nothing to be afraid of"

"So many of the older people I was talking to were really, really scared of cannabis," says Dewey, "even though they wanted to do it. So we have to educate: get the word out that explains that a joint has 10 mg of THC, and if you're new, it'll last three hours, whereas edibles can last 12 to 16 - that kind of practical stuff...We need to take the fear out of it because it's overblown."


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