Most people say cannabis enhances lovemaking and the pleasure of orgasm.
As of 2020, the large majority of Americans live in states where marijuana—now increasingly called cannabis—can be used legally. It’s completely legal in 11 states and the District of Columbia, and legal for medical use in another 28. It remains totally illegal in only 11 states. It’s also quite popular, estimated to be one of the nation’s most valuable agricultural crops.
But few studies have investigated the widely used drug’s sexual impact. Two recent reports add to this small literature—and confirm most earlier work showing that around two-thirds of lovers say it enhances sex.
University of British Columbia researchers surveyed 216 marijuana users recruited online who said they had used it during lovemaking.
- 74 percent said it increased their sensitivity to erotic touch.
- 74 percent said cannabis improved their sexual satisfaction.
- 70 percent said it helped them relax and feel more present during sex.
- 66 percent said marijuana boosted the pleasure of their orgasms.
- 59 percent said it increased their sexual desire.
- Among those who admitted problems working up to orgasm, half said cannabis helped them climax.
- 41 percent said it had mixed impact, improving some aspects of sex but detracting from others.
- 39 percent called marijuana always sex enhancing.
- Only 5 percent said it always spoiled sex.
St. Louis University investigators asked 373 women visiting gynecologists for routine care if they used cannabis prior to sex. One-third (127) said they did. They were asked to complete an anonymous survey. Compared with those who abstained from marijuana or used it infrequently, those who regularly used the drug shortly before sex were twice as likely to report deeply satisfying orgasms.
Both of these studies used what researchers call “convenience samples.” The subjects were people who happened to be available. They visited gynecologists or responded to online recruitment efforts, and opted to participate. Results based on convenience samples cannot be called definitive, but they are well within the bounds of social science research. The psychology journals would be mighty thin without studies based on one particular convenience sample—college undergraduates.
The new reports corroborate the handful of other studies on the sexual impact of cannabis:
- Kansas City researchers interviewed 97 adult users. Two-thirds said it increased emotional closeness and sexual pleasure and satisfaction. One-third said it had no effect on their lovemaking or reduced pleasure.
- In the largest study, Stanford researchers tracked 51,119 adult cannabis users for fourteen years (28,176 women, 22,943 men). Some reported enhancement, others impairment, but overall, the drug was mildly libido-boosting—an average of one extra roll in the hay per month.
- Finally, in my own 2010 survey using the convenience sample of several hundred of this blog’s readers, 67 percent said marijuana enhanced sex, 12 percent said it ruined lovemaking, and 20 percent said its effect depended on the dose, strain (sativa or indica), or their mood as they began playing.
Why does cannabis usually improve sex? That remains unclear, but German researchers have discovered that orgasm releases the body’s own cannabis-like compounds, endocannabinoids that are associated with pleasure.
Why do some say marijuana ruins sex? Usually because it makes them withdraw into themselves, so they feel less erotically connected to their partners.
Marijuana vs. Alcohol
I don’t encourage lovers to mix sex and recreational drugs, but many people do—possibly most. The world’s favorite sex drug is alcohol. However, alcohol is also the world’s leading cause of drug-related sexual impairment. As Shakespeare wrote in Macbeth, alcohol “provokes the desire, but takes away the performance.” How true. The first drink is disinhibiting; prospective lovers are easier to coax into bed. But if people of average weight drink more than two beers, cocktails, or glasses of wine in an hour or so, alcohol becomes a central nervous system depressant that interferes with erections in men, sexual responsiveness in women, and orgasm in all genders. And as drinking increases, sex deteriorates even more.
In addition, alcohol is a key risk factor for sexual assault. Recently, the media have spotlighted epidemic levels of rape on college campuses and in the military. They almost always involve alcohol.
Looking at the two drugs’ sexual impact—alcohol often causing problems, marijuana usually improving things—you’d think lovers would have switched from booze to cannabis in droves. But I’ve seen no studies and no media coverage that suggest this is happening.