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Drug Reformers Look to Baby Boomers for Support

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Growing numbers of older Americans are using illicit drugs, and groups seeking to reform U.S. drug policies see aging Baby Boomers as potent allies.

The Associated Press reported Feb. 23 that 2008 federal data shows that 2.9 percent of Americans over age 50 smoked marijuana in the past year, up from 1.9 percent in 2002. Experts predict that the numbers will grow as Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) age.

Some older drug users are continuing a lifelong habit, while others are revisiting the behaviors of their youth — sometimes for pain relief. Drug-policy reformers see an opportunity in the trends.

“For the longest time, our political opponents were older Americans who were not familiar with marijuana and had lived through the 'Reefer Madness' mentality and they considered marijuana a very dangerous drug,” said Keith Stroup of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. “Now, whether they resume the habit of smoking or whether they simply understand that it's no big deal and that it shouldn't be a crime, in large numbers they're on our side of the issue.”

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