Thirty years ago, he would have been grounded. But today, 46-year-old Bryan brings marijuana into his parents' house—with their blessing and for their brownies. The New York Times calls it a new, though still rare, rite of middle-age passage: recreational users purchasing pot to ease mom and dad's ailments. In Bryan's case, his father has a heart condition, and his mother suffers from nausea. Though medical marijuana isn't legal in Illinois, his parents aren't overly concerned about the pot brownies and ginger snaps their son makes them.
“We have concerns about the law, but I would not go back to not taking the cookie and going through what I went through,” says his 72-year-old mother. And her ranks may be growing. Though a 2009 survey found that fewer than 1% of those over 65 say they've smoked pot in the last year, doctors expect that number to balloon as the next generation, which embraced pot in their youth, enters old age: 4% of 50- to 65-year-olds currently use the drug. But it's not all kumbaya-and-pass-the-pipe: Doctors warn that older pot smokers are at greater risk of falling and could suffer memory loss; and some parents worry about sending their kids to buy them drugs. “I was very uncomfortable getting my son involved,” says one 54-year-old.