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More Seniors Are Backing Legal Marijuana

Seniors are warming to the idea of making marijuana legal, according to a new survey.

While Americans who are 65-plus are not nearly as likely as younger ones to give legal pot a thumbs-up, the percentage of older people who do support legalization has nearly doubled in the past decade, according to the new survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.

By the Numbers

In 2002, just 17 percent of those 65 and older were OK with legalization. This year, 32 percent are.

The survey polled 1,501 adults. Overall, across the age brackets, 52 percent of respondents said marijuana should be made legal, with the the youngest age groups being the most in favor of giving legalization a green light – from 53 percent of 5- to 64-year-olds, to 64 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds.

The numbers are no surprise to Paul Armentano, deputy director of  NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. Of the jump in support among seniors, he says it’s “consistent with the growing support we see among all ages.”

Grannies for Grass

There’s more evidence that attitudes are changing among older people, including the expansion plans of the grassroots (sorry) group Moms for Marijuana. According to their website, they’ve had so many inquiries from older adults that they’re forming Grannies for Grass chapters in several states. The groups are “advocating for medicinal cannabis and hemp for sustainability,” according to the Missouri Grannies for Grass Facebook page.

And according to the survey, 22 percent of respondents 65-plus have used marijuana in the past year (that’s compared to 56 percent of those 18 to 29).

Armentano expects the numbers favoring marijuana legalization will continue to climb among older Americans, especially as baby boomers move into that 65-plus age category.

…And Not for Grass

For now, there are still plenty of senior naysayers. The survey found:

  • 60% of the 65-plus respondents still see marijuana as a ”gateway” drug, but 37% of boomers do
  • 48% of the 65-plus adults say marijuana use is morally wrong, compared to 29% of boomers

Among those who are not pleased about the uptick in senior support for legalization is Scott Chipman, the Southern California co-chair of Citizens Against Legalizing Marijuana or CALM.

In a statement issued in response to the Pew report, he says: “The survey’s results are an indication, more than anything, of the careless discussion about legalization currently going on in this country.” That discussion, he says, is funded by those who will profit from its legalization. He calls that group ”marijuana’s version of Big Tobacco.”

He argues that marijuana is ”scientifically documented to be unsafe.”

How the Tide Turns

Like many seniors Paul Kuhn, a 69-year-old investment manager in Nashville, supports legalization because he has seen how the medical use of marijuana can help.

He says he has indulged in ”social” marijuana for 40 years, a habit his late wife Jeanne didn’t share. When she had to undergo chemotherapy for cancer treatment, she found the anti-nausea medicine didn’t work. The marijuana did, he says.

Those who aren’t advocates often change their minds when they see how it can help people who need medical relief, he says. Then jokes: “They see that you don’t move right on to heroin.”

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