Poll: Older Americans back medical marijuana

December 18, 2004

Elizabeth Wolfe, Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- Almost three-fourths of older Americans support legalizing marijuana for medical use, according to a poll done for the nation's largest advocacy group for seniors.

More than half of those questioned said they think marijuana has medical benefits, while a larger majority agreed the drug is addictive.

AARP, with 35 million members, says it has no political position on medical marijuana.

But with medical marijuana at the center of a Supreme Court case to be decided next year and almost a dozen states with medical marijuana laws on their books, AARP decided to study the issue.

''The use of medical marijuana applies to many older Americans who may benefit from cannabis,'' said Ed Dwyer, an editor at AARP The Magazine, which will discuss the matter in its March/April issue, appearing in late January.

Among the 1,706 adults polled in AARP's random phone survey in November, opinions varied along regional and generational lines.

Overall, 72 percent of respondents agreed ''adults should be allowed to legally use marijuana for medical purposes if a physician recommends it.'' Those in the Northeast (79 percent) and West (82 percent) were more receptive to the idea than in the Midwest (67 percent), Southwest (65 percent) and South (70 percent).

Though 69 percent of those 70 and older said they support legal medical marijuana use, less than half agreed it has medical benefits. Seventy percent of respondents 45-49 said they believe in the medical benefits of pot, as did 59 percent of those in the 50-69 age group.

While 74 percent of all people surveyed said pot is addictive, older respondents were more likely to think so: 83 percent of those 70 and older, compared with 61 percent of those 45-49.

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on whether federal agents can pursue sick people who use homegrown marijuana with their doctors' permission and their states' approval.

The Bush administration says allowing medical marijuana in California would undermine federal drug control programs and that pot grown for medical use could end up on the illegal market.

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