Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format



Master of Science


Health and Rehabilitation Sciences


Smith, Maxwell


Use of cannabis among adults 55 years of age and older is increasing. In Q4 of 2018, slightly over half of cannabis users used for therapeutic purposes at least once, where many reported using for both medical and non-medical reasons (mixed use). Research on older adults regarding the use of Cannabis for Therapeutic Purposes (CTP) is fragmented and there are no comprehensive or in-depth studies on their perceptions or self-reported motivations. Understanding in these areas is important to inform policy that takes the protection of public health and safety as central aims. Does policy affect one of, if not both, user and non-user perspectives? Methods: The normalization framework provides a lens through which to study older adult use of CTP, while critical realism serves as the methodological framework. A qualitative flexible deductive approach is applied. Findings: The findings suggest a social acceptance of CTP by non-users, but that the use of healthcare practitioner authorized CTP is not normalized. Government and medical regulatory policy serve as barriers to access authorized CTP, which does not support normalization. In the Canadian context, pain and avoidance of conventional drug use are central factors for the use of CTP. Conclusion: It is understood from the findings that the primary motivator for the use of CTP is to achieve normal goals, goals the participants themselves interpret as normal, distinct from recreational use. Legislative and other policy modifications are required to ensure authorized access to regulated cannabis in order to protect public health and public safety.

Summary for Lay Audience

Scientists do not know a lot about older adult views on using cannabis to feel better. “Older adults” means anyone who is 55 years of age or older. The number of older adults who are using cannabis is going up. Over half of all older adults who use cannabis have used it to feel better at least once. To keep older adults healthy and safe, the Canadian government makes rules. Why are there so many older adults using cannabis to feel better? Why are older adults using cannabis to feel better? Do government rules change older adult views? What does that mean for older adult health and safety? To learn more about older adult views the scientists follows guidelines that help them answer their questions. The guidelines the scientists used are called critical realism and the normalization framework. The scientists talked to older adults and wrote everything down word for word. The scientists arranged the thoughts of the older adults using ideas from the guidelines and then added some of their own ideas. The answers to the questions may show that Canadians are okay with using cannabis to feel better, but people do not always go to their doctor for it. Government rules make it difficult to get cannabis to feel better. Older adults in Canada use cannabis to stop feeling pain and to try to use less medicine. After hearing the older adult views, the scientists think that older adults use cannabis to feel like they normally do, which is different than using cannabis for fun. Changes to government rules can help to make sure older adults get their cannabis that makes them feel better from a doctor. Getting cannabis from a doctor helps to make sure it safe to use.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 License.