Qualitative Analysis of Cannabis Use Among Older Adults in Colorado

Drugs Aging. 2019 Jul;36(7):655-666. doi: 10.1007/s40266-019-00665-w.


Background: Although the rate of cannabis use by older adults is increasing more quickly than all other age groups, little is known about the reasons why older adults use cannabis and the outcomes they experience.

Objective: The objective of this study was to identify the most salient themes concerning the use of medical and recreational cannabis by older adults living in Colorado. Specifically, we sought to (1) characterize perceptions of cannabis use by users and non-users, (2) determine how older adults access cannabis, and (3) explicate both positive and negative outcomes associated with cannabis use.

Methods: Between June and November 2017, we conducted 17 focus groups in senior centers, health clinics, and cannabis dispensaries in 15 Colorado cities. Participants included 136 persons aged over 60 years who were both users and non-users of cannabis. We coded and analyzed session transcripts using thematic analysis with NVivo software.

Results: We identified 16 codes from which five main themes emerged. These themes included: a lack of education and research about cannabis, a lack of provider communication, access to medical cannabis, the outcomes of cannabis use, and a reluctance to discuss cannabis use.

Conclusions: Older adults want more information about cannabis and desire to communicate with their healthcare providers. Older adults who used cannabis for medical purposes reported positive outcomes but highlighted difficulties in accessing medical cannabis. Older adults in Colorado also revealed how a stigma continues to be attached to using cannabis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cannabis
  • Colorado / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Marijuana Use / epidemiology*
  • Medical Marijuana / administration & dosage*
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain Management / methods
  • Pain Management / statistics & numerical data*
  • Senior Centers / statistics & numerical data


  • Medical Marijuana