Measuring Attitudes Toward Medical and Recreational Cannabis Among Older Adults in Colorado

Gerontologist. 2020 May 15;60(4):e232-e241. doi: 10.1093/geront/gnz054.


Background and objectives: Cannabis use among older adults is on the rise. Despite growing interest in the topic, there exists a paucity of standardized measures capturing cannabis-specific attitudes among older adults. Using data from a survey of older Coloradans, we create two scales that separately measure medical and recreational cannabis attitudes. We also examine how these two attitudes relate to individual-level characteristics.

Research design and methods: We assess reliability using Cronbach's alpha and item-rest correlations and perform confirmatory factor analyses to test the two attitude models. We conduct a seemingly unrelated regression estimation to assess how individual characteristics predict medical and recreational cannabis attitude scores.

Results: Twelve indicators combined into two valid and reliable scales. Both scales had a three-factor structure with affect, cognition and social perception as latent dimensions. For both scales, fit indices for the three-factor model were statistically superior when compared with other models. The three-factor structure for both scales was invariant across age groups. Age, physical health, and being a caregiver differentially predicted medical and recreational cannabis attitude scores.

Discussion and implications: Medical and recreational cannabis attitude scales can inform the development and evaluation of tailored interventions targeting older adult attitudes that aim to influence cannabis use behaviors. These scales also enable researchers to measure cannabis-specific attitudes among older adults more accurately and parsimoniously, which in turn can facilitate a better understanding of the complex interplay between cannabis policy, use, and attitudes.

Keywords: Factor analysis; Scale construction; Substance use.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cannabis*
  • Colorado
  • Factor Analysis, Statistical
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Marijuana Use / psychology*
  • Medical Marijuana*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Medical Marijuana