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Seniors’ cannabis use accelerating post-legalization

Older people more likely to target medicinal uses, but legally
Seniors smoking joint cannabis Photograph By ISTOCK

Canadians older than 65 are less likely to use cannabis than younger people, but when they do, it’s more likely used for medicinal reasons and bought from legal sources.

It’s estimated some five million Canadians have now used cannabis.

The findings are among results of the latest quarterly report done by the National Cannabis Survey since February 2018 prior to legalization in October.

Figures released Oct. 30 show cannabis use is less common among seniors than it is in other age groups — 7 per cent, compared with 10 per cent at ages 45 to 64, 25% at ages 25 to 44, and 26 per cent at ages 15 to 24.

However, survey results show consumption among seniors has been accelerating at a much faster pace than it has among other age groups.

Data for 2019 second and third quarters show there are about 578,000 new cannabis users in the past three months.

First-time use increases with age, the survey found.

While 10 per cent of cannabis consumers aged 25 to 44 were new users in the second and third quarters of 2019, this was the case for 27 per cent of those aged 65 and older.

Seniors also reported they were less likely to use daily.

Indeed, more than half reported using it solely for medical reasons while the remaining seniors were evenly split between non-medical only (24 per cent) and both medical and non-medical reasons (24 per cent).

In contrast, nearly 60 per cent of younger people aged 15 to 24 reported using cannabis exclusively for non-medical purposes and more than one-third (35 per cent) reported consuming for both medical and non-medical reasons.

Exclusive medical use among the youngest age group was rare, making the estimate too unreliable to be published.

An estimated 28 per cent of users, or 1.4 million Canadians, reported obtaining cannabis from a legal source, with consumers aged 65 and older (41 per cent) being the most likely to be using only legally-obtained cannabis, compared with about a quarter of younger consumers (23 per cent to 29 per cent, depending on age).

Growing cannabis was a supply source for about 8 per cent of consumers, and about 4 per cent reported another (unspecified) source, with no differences by age.