Tuesday, February 23, 2010

What’s Ya Smokin, Grandma?

More Older Americans Report Smoking Marijuana

I had to pass on this story from a local news paper out of Delaware that did a story today that reported of an 88 year old Grandma who has learned how to relax: A glass of red wine, a crisp copy of The New York Times, some classic music from her time period, and every night like clockwork, she lifts a pipe to her lips and smokes marijuana.

Long a fixture among young people, use of the country’s most popular illicit drug is now growing among the AARP set, as the baby boomers who came of age in the 1960’s and 70’s grow older.

The number of people 50 and older reporting marijuana use in the prior year went up from 1.9 percent to 2.9 percent from 2002 to 2008, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

The rise was most dramatic among 55 to 59 year olds, whose reported marijuana use more than tripled from 1.6 percent in 2002 to 5.1 percent.

Observers expect further increases as 78 million boomers born between 1945 and 1064 age. For many boomers, the drug never held the stigma it did for previous generations, and they tried it decades ago.

Some have used it ever since, while others are revisiting the habit in retirement, either for recreation or as a way to cope with the aches and pains of aging.

One 88 year old grandmother walks with a cane and has arthritis in her back and legs told the reporter that she finds marijuana has helped her sleep better than pills ever did.

The political advocates for legalizing marijuana say the number of older users could represent an important shift in their decades-long push to change the laws. “For the longest time, our political opponents were older Americans who were not familiar with marijuana and had lived through the “Reefer Madness” mentality and they considered marijuana a very dangerous drug,” said Keith Stroup, the founder and lawyer of NORMAL, a marijuana advocacy group. “Now, whether they resume the habit of smoking or whether they simply understand that it’s no big deal and that it shouldn’t be a crime, in large numbers they are on our side of the issue.”

The drug is credited with relieving many problems and aging: aches and pains, glaucoma, macular degeneration, and so on. Patients in 14 states enjoy medical marijuana laws, but those elsewhere buy or grown the drug illegally to ease their conditions.

Among them is Perry Parks, 67, of Rockingham, N.C., a retired Army pilot who suffered crippling pain from degenerative disc disease and arthritis. He had tried all sorts of drugs, but found little success. About two years ago he turned to marijuana, which he first had tried in college, and was amazed how well it worked for the pain. He said, “I realized I could get by without the narcotics,” referring to prescription painkillers. “I am essentially pain free!”

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