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Why recreational marijuana use is on the rise with baby boomers

Where does your mom buy her pot? That’s probably not a question you’d ever expect to ask yourself, but a growing number of over-50s are using marijuana recreationally. In fact, according to a recent study from New York University, baby boomers have higher rates of substance use than any preceding generation.

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The study found a 71 percent increase in marijuana use among adults aged 50 and older between 2006 and 2013.

Interestingly, despite high-profile anti-drug campaigns aiming to reduce substance abuse and educate people on the risks of recreational drug use, a very low number of baby boomers see marijuana use as high risk. Only 5 percent of the 47,140 adults who took part in the study felt using marijuana once or twice a week was a great risk to their health. Of course, this could be because many of these campaigns target adolescents — not their grandparents.

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If you’re worried about the older members of your family suddenly turning to pot during their downtime, it may be of some relief to know that the majority of self-reported baby boomer marijuana users said they first smoked pot before they turned 18. This suggests that they continued to use throughout their lives or have started to use again more recently. Researchers note that only 4 percent started to use after the age of 35, so we’re not talking about an entire generation of baby boomers who’ve suddenly gone from clean living to dope smoking.

What’s the appeal of pot to our over-50s? It may be that they gave up marijuana use to raise a family and/or focus on a career and no longer have the pressure of those responsibilities to the same extent. Some may find it relieves stress and tension, while others find it a pleasurable experience. Or perhaps marijuana use simply isn’t as shocking as it may once have been.

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Given recent changes in the law in Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, which entirely legalized the use of both recreational and medicinal marijuana, and the likelihood of other states following suit, our baby boomers are unlikely to stop lighting up any time soon.

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