• While cannabis acceptance and use are growing among older individuals, many report challenges that stand in their way of accessing medical marijuana.
  • The purpose of this study was to explore and better understand how older individuals view, use, and are affected by cannabis.
  • Researchers conducted 17 focus groups in senior centers, health clinics, and cannabis dispensaries and studied 136 individuals over age 60.
  • They observed a few themes among this cohort: the most significant finding was that these older adults were reluctant to talk to their healthcare provider about access to medical marijuana.
  • Researchers believe this reluctance is rooted in self-consciousness, which signifies poor communication between patient and doctor.
  • The team says that physicians need to talk to their patients about cannabis use without judgment; and it’s important they clearly communicate the benefits as well as the risks.

Quick Summary

According to the National Survey of Drug Use and Health, cannabis use is growing the fastest among older adults. However, a new study “Qualitative Analysis of Cannabis Use Among Older Adults in Colorado” says that many of these individuals report challenges to getting medical marijuana, including fear of stigma from their doctors.


While we know that cannabis use is growing among older adults, not much is known about why. With this in mind, the purpose of this study was to explore why older adults use cannabis (both medical and recreational) and what they get out of the experience, including both positive and negative outcomes.


Researchers conducted 17 focus groups in three settings: senior centers, health clinics, and cannabis dispensaries across the state of Colorado. Over 136 people over the age of 60—some cannabis users, others not—participated.


These focus groups allowed the research team to identify five major themes among this group:

  1. A lack of education about cannabis
  2. A lack of communication between doctor and patient about cannabis
  3. A lack of access to medical cannabis
  4. A lack of information related to cannabis use.
  5. A reluctance to talk about cannabis use.

Delving further into these themes, researchers found that many participants were reluctant to ask their doctors for access to medical marijuana and opted for recreational cannabis instead, often to cope with pain, depression, or anxiety. The researchers believe that these individuals feel self-conscious about talking to their doctor about cannabis, which points to poor communication between doctor and patient.


This study shows that more and more older individuals are accepting marijuana use for medical purposes. Additionally, they want to talk to their doctors about it but are hesitant to do so out of fear of stigma. Researchers say that physicians should talk to their patients about cannabis without judgment and need to communicate the benefits as well as the risks effectively.


  • This study only observed older adults from the state of Colorado.


Bobitt, J., Qualls, S. H., et al. (2019, March 28). Qualitative Analysis of Cannabis Use Among Older Adults in Colorado. Drugs & Aging. Retrieved from https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs40266-019-00665-w

University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. (2019, May 30). Cannabis use among older adults rising rapidly: Colorado study is first state-wide investigation of cannabis use among older Americans and the outcomes they experience. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 21, 2019 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/05/190530122019.htm

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