Cannabis use patterns and motives: A comparison of younger, middle-aged, and older medical cannabis dispensary patients

Addict Behav. 2017 Sep:72:14-20. doi: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2017.03.006. Epub 2017 Mar 9.


Introduction: Medical cannabis is increasingly being used for a variety of health conditions as more states implement legislation permitting medical use of cannabis. Little is known about medical cannabis use patterns and motives among adults across the lifespan.

Methods: The present study examined data collected at a medical cannabis dispensary in San Francisco, California. Participants included 217 medical cannabis patients who were grouped into age-defined cohorts (younger: 18-30, middle-aged: 31-50, and older: 51-72). The age groups were compared on several measures of cannabis use, motives and medical conditions using one-way ANOVAs, chi-square tests and linear regression analyses.

Results: All three age groups had similar frequency of cannabis use over the past month; however, the quantity of cannabis used and rates of problematic cannabis use were higher among younger users relative to middle-aged and older adults. The association between age and problematic cannabis use was moderated by age of regular use initiation such that earlier age of regular cannabis use onset was associated with more problematic use in the younger users, but not among older users. Middle-aged adults were more likely to report using medical cannabis for insomnia, while older adults were more likely to use medical cannabis for chronic medical problems such as cancer, glaucoma and HIV/AIDS. Younger participants reported cannabis use when bored at a greater rate than middle-aged and older adults.

Conclusions: Findings suggest that there is an age-related risk for problematic cannabis use among medical cannabis users, such that younger users should be monitored for cannabis use patterns that may lead to deleterious consequences.

Keywords: Age; Cannabis; Marijuana; Medical; Motives.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Age of Onset
  • Aged
  • Ambulatory Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Marijuana Use / epidemiology
  • Marijuana Use / psychology
  • Medical Marijuana / therapeutic use*
  • Mental Disorders / drug therapy
  • Middle Aged
  • Motivation*
  • Pain / prevention & control
  • San Francisco / epidemiology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult


  • Medical Marijuana