Research highlights Australian’s attitudes towards cannabis

14 Dec 2022

Baby Boomers are more likely to use cannabis and support its legalisation than other generations, research by The University of Queensland has found.

PhD student Vivian Chiu from UQ’s National Centre for Youth Substance Use Research led the research which analysed the National Drug Strategy Household Survey between 2001 and 2019.

“The research included data from over 158,000 participants aged 18 to 79 years,” Ms Chiu said.

“There was a broad shift in attitudes for people wanting to try cannabis, and a more Australians reported using it weekly.

“People born in the 1950s and 1960s had more liberal views towards using cannabis and were more likely to have used the substance weekly.

“These observations are consistent with the historical counter-culture movement of cannabis use in the 1960s to 1970s, which was happening as this cohort was transitioning into adulthood.

“It suggests societal influence may have a long-term impact on an individual’s beliefs and perceptions.

“However, their perceptions about the ‘low risks’ of using cannabis may actually put them at a higher risk of experiencing adverse health outcomes.”

The research also found indications that Australians born in the 1990s are catching up with baby boomers’ attitudes, with many likely to use the substance if it is legalised.

Global support for cannabis legalisation has been rising with more countries expanding public access for medicinal and recreational uses in recent years.

Since it’s legalisation in the United States and Canada there has been an increase in cannabis use amongst adults aged 25 and over.

The research suggests there will be a similar increase in Australia if the substance is legalised, finding a rapid growth in usage between 2013 and 2019.   

Dr Gary Chan from the National Centre for Youth Substance Use Research said it is important people understand the risks associated with using cannabis.

“People at different ages are susceptible to different health effects from cannabis use,” Dr Chan said.

“While there are a lot of prevention initiatives and treatments focused on young people, our research highlights a gap in education for older adults.

“More educational resources and support services are needed for older Australians, to ensure they are aware of the health risks associated with using cannabis.”

The research is published in Drug and Alcohol Review.

Media: UQ Communications; Bridget Druery,, (+61) (0)435 221 246, @UQHealth