Living in a state with legal medical marijuana could mean you’re more likely to have sex, according to a new study published in the Journal of Health Economics. But researchers warn that such behavio it has a flip side to it too. Give this research a read to figure it out.
So how does medical marijuana influence people’s sex lives? The study authors noted previous research that shows marijuana “heightens sensory perception, increases relaxation, reduces stress and diminishes anxiety,” adding that “enhanced senses may contribute to an increase in sexual activity.”
Researchers, who looked at survey data collected between 1997 and 2011, found a 4.3% increase in the “likelihood of having sex once or more in the past month” after the legalization of medical marijuana and “an increase in sex beginning directly after the law change.”
“We find that [medical marijuana laws] cause an increase in sexual activity,” researchers from the University of Connecticut and Georgia State University concluded.
While marijuana may pave the way for a more relaxing sexual experience, it’s not without some consequences. The researchers found that contraception use, including condom sales, went down in states that allow medical marijuana, while birth rates went up — specifically, a mean increase of 2 percent, which translates to about 333 more births per quarter, according to the study.
The data used for the study is from the National Center for Health Statistics and the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, which asked young respondents “detailed questions about sexual activity and substance use.”
“These results provide evidence that marijuana use has a considerable, unintended, and positive effect on birthrates,” the authors wrote in the paper, which was published late last month in the Journal of Health Economics.
When it comes to contraceptives, the researchers highlight that the sensory effects of cannabis “may change attitudes toward sexual risks by making users less concerned about the consequences of intercourse, resulting in decreased contraceptive use.”
Such behavioral changes could explain why birthrates increase when people have access to medical cannabis, despite what the study authors described as physiological effects associated with marijuana use that could decrease fertility.
“Our findings on births suggest that behavioral factors can counteract the physiological changes from marijuana use that tend to decrease fertility,” they wrote.
The study’s co-author, University of Connecticut assistant professor David Simon, told Yahoo News that the surge in baby-making could be due to weed’s positive effects on people’s lives. The academic said that cannabis “treats chronic pain, improves life satisfaction, and decreases opioid abuse, it could result in heightened libidos/improved sex life.”
These findings would point to cannabis influencing birth rates positively through behavioral effects. But the jury is still out on whether biologically, marijuana has a positive or negative impact on fertility. Some studies have suggested that using marijuana causes a drop in sperm count (though some have indicated the reverse) and can be a hurdle for couples that are already experiencing challenges with being able to have a baby. Some investigations have concluded that cannabis can make it difficult for people to produce certain hormones that aid in the baby-making process. Others have found that CBD can be helpful to pregnant people.
What should people take from this study?
Simon says that one of the “effects” of legalizing marijuana is increasing sexuality and fertility, which can be both positive and problematic.
“This could have positive effects – fertility is below the replacement rate in the US – or negative effects – increases sexually transmitted diseases and more children who need social services,” he says. “Regardless of this, we believe that this should be seen as part of the conversation about legalization by society / politics.”