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Cannabis Use among Older Adults: Does Geography Matter and Does It Impact Mobility?


Use of cannabis among older adults is on the rise (Kaskie et al., 2017). However, little research has explored the intersection between cannabis and older adults (DiNitto & Choi, 2011; Black and Joseph, 2014; Kaskie et al., 2017). No studies have explored whether geography impacts cannabis use among older adults, including whether older adults living in rural, urban, and suburban communities have different attitudes and beliefs about use. This is a particularly important issue given that one quarter of all adults over 65 years of age live in rural communities, and on average, rural residents are older than people living in urban areas (Oberdorfer & Wiley, 2014; Baernholdt et al., 2012). Further, there is limited research on whether and how cannabis use impacts the mobility of older adults (DiNitto, Choi, & Marti, 2017). With the population aged 65 and over projected to double by 2050 (Ortman, Velkoff, Hogan, 2014), transportation analysts and public health researchers must explore cannabis use among older adults, whether geography matters, and the impact of use on mobility.


The objective of this research is to explore use, acceptance, and availability of cannabis, and impact of use on mobility, among older adults in different geographic areas of the U.S. From this research, the study team will develop recommendations that can inform transportation and public health research, programs, and policies to ensure the safe mobility of older adults.

The research should address the following questions:

  1. Why do older adults use cannabis? Do reasons for use vary among older adults by geography (rural, urban, and suburban communities)?

  2. How do older adults access cannabis (through a prescription or other means)?

  3. What barriers and facilitators impact older adults’ use of cannabis? (For example, state laws, access to dispensaries, personal attitudes and beliefs, peer and community attitudes and beliefs, and perceptions of how cannabis affects mobility.)

  4. To what extent does cannabis use impact older adults’ mobility—broadly defined in terms of walking, bicycling, driving, using alternative modes of transportation, and rides with friends and family?

  5. Are there differences in attitudes and beliefs about cannabis among older adults by geography?

  6. Are there differences in attitudes and beliefs about cannabis among older adults living in states with different cannabis laws?

Researchers should consider conducting a mixed methods study that involves primary data collection, using surveys, interviews or focus groups, with older adults (including drivers and non-drivers) as well as other community stakeholders (health care providers, dispensary registrars, state and local public health officials, transportation providers, and pharmacists). It will be important to include the perspectives of older adults in different age cohorts. Researchers should also consider utilizing a valid survey instrument or adapting valid questions, if available. The sample must include older adults living in different communities, and in states with different cannabis laws, to assess the impact of geography.


The research will improve understanding of the use, acceptance, and availability of cannabis, and impact of use on mobility, among older adults in different U.S. geographic areas. The findings will provide critical information to decision makers and the public about cannabis use among older adults. This work will also support the development of an evidence base that will shape future research, programs, and policies to foster the safe mobility of older adults.

Related Research:

Black, P., & Joseph, L. J. (2014). Still dazed and confused: Midlife marijuana use by the baby boom generation. Deviant Behavior, 35, 822–841.

DiNitto, D., & Choi, N. (2011). Marijuana use among older adults in the U.S.A.: User characteristics, patterns of use, and implications for intervention. International Psychogeriatrics, 23(5), 732-741. doi:10.1017/S1041610210002176

DiNitto, D., Choi, N, & Marti, C.N. (2017). Older Adults Driving Under the Influence:

Associations With Marijuana Use, Marijuana Use Disorder, and Risk Perceptions. Journal of Applied Gerontology, 1 -21. doi: 10.1177/0733464817745379

Kaskie, B., Ayyagari, P., Milavetz, G., Shane, D., Arora, K. (2017). The Increasing Use of Cannabis Among Older Americans: A Public Health Crisis or Viable Policy Alternative? The Gerontologist, 57(6) , 1166–1172.


Findings will inform transportation and public health policies and programs at the federal, state, and local levels.


The population of older adults in the U.S. is increasing rapidly, and, at the same time, many states are legalizing cannabis. This research would inform ongoing policy discussions about older adults’ use and acceptance of cannabis, availability, and attitudes and beliefs; the relationship between these factors and geography; and the impact of cannabis on mobility.

Sponsoring Committee:ANB60, Safe Mobility of Older Persons
Research Priority:High
RNS Developer:Alycia Bayne, Lesley Ross, Katherine Freund, Vanya Jones
Date Posted:03/01/2019
Date Modified:05/21/2019
Index Terms:Marijuana, Aged, Aged drivers, Mobility, Drug use, Geography,
Cosponsoring Committees: 
Safety and Human Factors

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