The Times are Changing: A Qualitative Study of Older and Younger Marijuana Users


Principal Investigator: Sheigla Murphy, PhD
Co-Principal Investigator: Paloma Sales, PhD
Supported by a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse R01 DA033841-01


Over the last forty years, public perceptions of marijuana use have undergone a number of changes. When Baby Boomers were teenagers and young adults, marijuana use was broadly accepted among youth cultures, but by the late 1980s, marijuana use, as well as other so-called “soft” drug use, was widely socially disparaged. Today the pendulum is swinging back in terms of public attitudes towards marijuana. Marijuana use has become much more widely tolerated to the point where municipal, county and state laws decriminalizing marijuana possession have been enacted across the country. Rates of marijuana use among Baby Boomers appear to be growing, and analysts predict a significant rise in older adults’ substance use which will increase treatment and healthcare needs. In order to investigate the health and social consequences of changing political and social contexts, we plan to conduct in-depth life history interviews with marijuana users divided into two groups defined by varying social roles and cohort experiences: 60 early Boomers (born between 1946-1957) and 60 late Boomers (1958-1964)  who are regular users. We hope to discover the differences and similarities between how early and late Baby Boomers perceive their own and others’ marijuana use, their attitudes, their actual use patterns, and their perceptions of its health and social consequences.