Is Marijuana Use On The Rise In The United States?

Legalization of medical and recreational marijuana has led to a surge of users–especially senior citizens. About 12 percent of Americans aged 50 to 59 report toking up, while about 8 percent of Americans aged 60 and up report the same. Both demographics have seen substantial growth in usage over the last decade, but the 60+ demographic has taken a wild upswing in the past few years, while the 50 to 59 demographic seems to be leveling off. But why?

It’s hard to say for sure before more research is done, but part of the reason seems to be the shift in social attitude between the era during which the drug war began and the era during which acceptance has become more common.

Simply put, fewer people feel compelled to lie when taking a survey. Even while anonymous, researchers long ago concluded that survey and poll takers aren’t always 100 percent truthful when answering questions about taboo or controversial topics (sort of along the same lines as why the number of homosexual or “mostly” heterosexual people is on the rise).

We’re becoming a society in which fewer people are frowned upon for reasons that never made much sense to begin with.

Back in the 80s, the statistics were quite a bit different. Today, senior citizens are about twenty times as likely to use marijuana for medicine or recreation.

Because medical marijuana is a big part of the equation, it should be noted that more senior citizens are allowed to legally benefit from those medicinal qualities as more and more states all doctors to legally prescribe the drug. That’s part of the reason for the uptick.

Surprisingly, legality hasn’t really stopped anyone else. The rate of marijuana use for Americans aged 18 to 29 has basically remained stagnant since 1984, hovering at around 29 percent. That means changing laws are allowing states to reap the taxation rewards of recreational marijuana without having even the remotest impact on young social attitudes toward pot. The attitudes of older citizens in general, meanwhile, are shifting towards legalization. When everyone else is enjoying the drug, why not?

Social attitudes are in part driven by what our parents did or didn’t do. Teenagers rebel simply because they can. Because rebellion is the biological constant, no one really knows if marijuana use will continue to rise, taper off over the next few years, or decline in a decade or two.