Cannabis in Colorado History & Boomers’ Cannabis Use Patterns

MJ weedColorado is the home of legal medical and recreational cannabis, and come to find out,  we have history with this stuff. When Colorado became a state back in 1876, both hemp and cannabis could be grown legally, and they stayed that way for decades. By the late 1800s, cannabis oil was a common ingredient in medical tinctures. Asian-style hashish dens were common in larger cities like New York and San Francisco. Increasing popularity led to concerns that hashish would lead to mass addiction, and in 1906 the federal government imposed the first regulation on cannabis intended for consumption: A product simply had to be labeled if it contained the herb.

Between 1915 and 1917, Wyoming, Utah and Nevada all banned cannabis, and in March 1917, Colorado legislators made the use and cultivation of cannabis a misdemeanor. Those who broke the law were subject to a fine up to $10 and a month in jail, part of the growing national temperance movement that led to Prohibition in 1920.

On November 7, 2000, 54% of Colorado voters to approve the use of marijuana in the state for patients with written medical consent. Under this law, patients could possess up to 2 ounces of medical marijuana and cultivate no more than six plants.

Conditions recognized for medical use include: cachexiacancerchronic pain; chronic nervous system disordersepilepsy and other disorders characterized by seizuresglaucomaHIV or AIDSmultiple sclerosis and other disorders characterized by muscle spasticity; and nausea. Patients could not use cannabis in public places, or in any manner which might endanger others including operating a vehicle or machinery after medicating.

Since the enactment of Colorado Amendment 64 in November 2012, adults aged 21 or older can grow up to six marijuana plants privately in a locked space and legally possess all marijuana from the plants they grow, and possess up to one ounce of marijuana while traveling,

Since 2012, Colorado sales of cannabis have been staggering! Since legalization, Cannabis sales have topped 13 billion, with 4.5 billion just in 2017. Tax data shows close to 22 million collected just in 2017.

Boomers and Cannabis Use

cannabis budIf you remember the 60s you weren’t there…

According to the most recent iteration of the 40-year-long “Monitoring the Future” study from the University of Michigan, 85 percent of Americans 50 plus have used illegal drugs, including marijuana, in their lifetimes.

Since 2006, marijuana use has increased significantly among adult Americans age 50 plus. A decade ago, roughly 4.5 percent of people ages 50 to 64, and 0.4 percent of seniors above age 65 had used marijuana in the past year. By 2013, those numbers had increased to 7.1 percent and 1.4 percent, respectively. In percentage terms, marijuana use among 50- to 64-year-olds increased by 57.8 percent, while among seniors ages 65 and up, it ballooned by 250 percent.

This study, based on over 45,000 responses to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, isn’t the first to note that marijuana use is increasing rapidly among older adults. But it digs more deeply into the demographics of older Americans’ marijuana use, uncovering some interesting findings. For example European-Americans and African-Americans are much more likely to indulge in cannabis than Latinos. Low-income and married Americans are more likely to partake than separated or divorced, but single or widowed Americans use cannabis the most.

Many 50+ Americans are using cannabis to deal with mental health issues. Among those 50 and older, people who have suffered with depression or anxiety in the past year are much more likely to use cannabis medically. A number of studies have shown a link between marijuana use and mental disorders. Given the widespread prevalence of medical marijuana laws, some seniors may be turning to cannabis as an alternative treatment for the ailments of old age.

One study found that Medicare reimbursements for a number of common prescription medications dropped sharply after the introduction of medical marijuana laws. 

Medical or not, it’s clear that the rise in cannabis use among older adults is driven by the aging of the baby-boom generation, who dabbled extensively with cannabis in their youth and may be returning to it in old age for a variety of reasons.

Let’s face it. Most Boomers are different in their views of cannabis use compared to the generation before them, and since there are still plenty of boomers under 65, this trend toward increased use in old age is likely to continue into the future.

It is important to note that in some countries, like Israel, medical use of cannabis is considered standard treatment. Medical marijuana use has been permitted in Israel since the early 1990s for cancer patients and others with pain-related illnesses such as Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s Disease, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Patients can smoke cannabis, ingest it in liquid and caplet form, or apply it to the skin as a balm.

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A New Year, A New Photo Essay

View from our land

Retirement may suggest lifestyle change for some, but how many are willing to take on any real risks at age 60? Enter Mike and I, the quiet revolutionaries. Four years ago this month, we drove down to southern Colorado to purchase a few rural acres of pinon-juniper woodland west of Walsenburg.  Mike’s dream had always been to construct his own passive solar home with amazing mountain views. This was our chance to make that dream come true!

In June 2014 we packed up or got rid of most of our worldly goods, sold our nice  home in suburban Fort Collins, and took off to live in a 100-year-old rental home in Walsenburg, while constructing a new life twenty minutes west of there. Crowning ourselves the “NEW Old Farts,” I began sharing this retirement adventure with the world in October 2014.

Laura and Rasta the view 2014

Although my husband was a true believer from day one, this all felt like a gigantic leap-of-faith for me. With housing prices rising quickly in the metro areas of northern Colorado, I saw little chance of changing our minds later to return to the city if this didn’t work out. So I made myself believe in my relatively new husband’s vision, and you know what? He was right.

Three and a half years later, after too many doubts and incredible challenges to my idea of who I am and where I belong, I am now quite content in our country solar home looking out each morning at the majestic Sangre de Cristo Mountains. My days are filled with supreme quiet and astounding beauty. I have also found a few good friends, a yoga class I like, and all the books I wish to read and movies I wish to view through the La Veta Public Library.

snowy west peak with comanche home in foreground

The view from our new solar home!

I find my need for distractions has dwindled. No, I do not miss city shopping, traffic, stress, noise or air pollution. In fact going into a city of any size is now the perfect reminder that I made the right choice for me. I have finally learned the power of living in this present moment. With so much more available to me and few distractions, I now have the time, energy, and awareness to fully appreciate the world around me.

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Sunrise that occurred while writing this post…

We moved here for a number of reasons: To live close to nature, to try passive solar living, to build the kind of home we chose to live in for the rest of our lives, and to find a far more peaceful, healthy and less expensive lifestyle than cities could offer us. We have received so much more by choosing to live in this beautiful, quiet place where life is luxuriously slow and overflows with simple pleasures.

Would you like to know more about our adventures? Check out my new memoir!

I’m beginning to dread a lot about Christmas…

halloweenHere we are, barely past Halloween, and here comes an onslaught of  “holiday” commercials! Yippee! Yes, they can be subtle at first, but they are there. Look closely. They creep on to our TV screens like ghosts and goblins sent to disturb our mellow post-Halloween days. Panic sets in.

It must be my age. Each year I face the “holidays” with increasing dismay instead of the previous joy. The “holidays” make me tense and uncomfortable. Instead of childhood visions of sugar plums from my ancient past, I now feel dread, pure and simple.

The advertising is ugly. It does me in… Is it the good old American hard-sell or the nauseatingly sweet, happy families advertising anything you need RIGHT NOW? We all know this is pure fiction!

Christmas dreadWhy do the Hallmark ads bring a wee tear to our eye? Because we know they aren’t real. They try to capture a life we wish we had instead of the one we live now. And don’t get me started with those male fantasy commercials, where he buys her that one special piece of jewelry so she’ll fall into his arms for a night of amazing sex, suggesting not too subtly she’s nice for a price.

I admit, when Mike and I first met, we had a lot of fun going out to buy our first tree together. We were so happy to have someone to share ANY holiday with. But now it all feels so crass to me. The “holidays” have turned into a gigantic embarrassment. This tradition has soured.

I swear if Jesus came back and saw what’s being done in his name, he would slit his wrists. It has really turned UGLY. Pushy people fighting over parking places at the mall, really? 

We decided to opt out years ago. Enough is enough!

Postscript: I first published this piece in 2009. It has only gotten worse since then!

Psychoactive Chemicals and YOU

psychoactive brainI, like probably millions of others all over this globe, have an interest in psychoactive chemicals. What can they do to and for us? For humans, examples of psychoactive chemicals include caffeine, alcohol, cocaine, LSD, and cannabis. Can certain of these compounds benefit us, leading to higher levels of consciousness? Can they open our minds to new and different kinds of creativity, or simply make our lives more pleasurable? I was surprised to find new information on this topic on the National Geographic Wild channel yesterday.

The “Happy Hour” episode of the show “World’s Wierdest” explores how psychoactive chemicals have affected animal behavior throughout evolution, sometimes assisting them in being more effective hunters. One fascinating research project looked at how spiders weave very different types of webs on different compounds, for example cocaine versus THC. They also look at primitive tribes who have used these substances in their rituals for centuries.

Here’s a brief summary of this episode:

“Nat Geo WILD explores nature as it gets rolling drunk and spaces out, and delves into the importance, or lack thereof, of intoxication in the animal kingdom. Meet monkeys that binge drink and throw frat parties, elephants that go on drunken rampages through villages and lemurs that get high off millipedes. And when a jaguar’s hunting skills may have been enhanced by chewing on psychedelics, scientists question whether or not there are evolutionary benefits to psychoactive compounds.” 

psychotherapyAnother piece of human behavior I find fascinating is why some of us are open to learning more on this topic, even experimenting with a few new substances, while others fear even the smallest alteration to their present state of mind.  Could it be that old fear of “losing your mind” on some level, or going some place you’ve never been before? My favorite joke on this topic: unemployment is much more of a gateway drug to serious drug use than marijuana, but LOVE is the best drug of all! Trust me, I know.

Life in a very small town: La Veta Colorado

View of La Veta valley from highway

Entering La Veta Valley, September 30, 2014

I loved yesterday! It started out like so many of my great days… badly! Mike has been very ill so we had to cancel our anniversary trip. I was disappointed and a bit grumpy, but I had promised to go into La Veta to meet a new friend who only comes through occasionally, so I drove into town. We met at Mountain Head Pizza. There I had some tasty pizza, along with a great time talking and laughing about “family problems” with my friend. It turns out my new friend has a wry sense of humor and, guess what? Everybody has family problems… who knew? On the way out the door I ran into another new friend.

Then we took a walk around tiny town for a few errands.

La Veta Public Library

La Veta has the best public library! If they don’t have a movie, they get it for you from their extensive network of other small public libraries. That’s how I keep current on my movies. It’s free and I get to watch them in the comfort of my own home.

memoir of retirement 2016Speaking of libraries, I met my new friend when I was at a Christmas festival in La Veta last December, selling my new book. She came up and we started talking and before I knew it she bought a copy. Now whenever she comes down here, she looks me up. I love the person-to-person contact that comes from selling my books one-on-one to new friends, instead of through the “evil empire” Amazon. For one thing, it is so much more friendly and personal. And another, Amazon doesn’t take half of my profit! We have even had these new friends up to our solar home to show off our incredible views. I guess I’m trying to get them to think about moving here….

My new friend and her husband enjoyed my new memoir so much, they wanted to buy my other books, so we walked over to my car to get them. As luck would have it, there were two ladies sitting on a bench near us when I opened up the back of my Forester. They giggled and looked at us, so I said, “No, I’m not dealing drugs out of my car. It’s even better! I’m selling my ‘feel good’ books!” We got to talking to them about books, love and dating (because of my love book), and life in La Veta. They said it’s tough meeting good men here. The good ones are married. One older gentleman walked by, overheard us, and I think he was about to join in to disagree! They asked me to bring more of my books into town. They wanted to buy a few.

Octoberfest in La Veta and West Peak

I said goodbye to my new friend until she comes down here again, maybe for Octoberfest. That’s when they close down Main Street and everybody parties together. This will be our fifth one!

Next I went to see another friend I met through my exercise class. Such good people in La Veta, and it’s amazing how quickly you can recognize so many on Main Street. Sometimes you may be talking about someone and they will walk right by!

So glad I chose this quiet, slow and friendly lifestyle for my forever home & retirement.

To learn more about how we ended up here, living in a solar home in the Colorado outback, check out: A Memoir of Retirement: From Suburbia to Solar in Southern Colorado…  

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