Can cannabis contribute to improving women’s sex lives?

Can cannabis contribute to improving women’s sex lives?

By Jodie Shupac

For years, Kinleigh Stewart thought she was asexual. On the rare occasion the 27-year-old from Sarnia, Ont., had sex, she mostly felt anxious – a fact she attributes to early traumatic experiences related to sex – and preoccupied. “I’d think about what groceries I had to buy, if I needed to vacuum. I hated it … It put me in a crippling position,” she said. In the past year, however, Stewart has discovered that she can enjoy sex. It’s just that, in order to do so, she has to be high.

A pot smoker since adolescence, Stewart and a former boyfriend decided to try smoking up before sex. Suddenly, she could climax, something she’d previously been unable to achieve with another person. Being high seemed to heighten her senses, which made her more aroused. Further, connecting with her sexuality and what turns her on made Stewart realize she may not be straight. “Now that I can get into [sex], and like it, I think I like women,” she said.

In 1971, American psychologist Charles Tart published On Being Stoned: A Psychological Study of Marijuana Intoxication. It relates findings from his survey of 150 marijuana users on how being high affected their perceptions of various sensory experiences, sex included. The respondents commonly reported that pot increased their sex drive, intensified feelings of closeness with their partners and yielded better orgasms. Almost 50 years later, save a handful of surveys, little scientific research has been published on the link between cannabis and sex. For the most part, legal constraints in Canada and the United States have posed a barrier to researchers’ abilities to study the substance.

But with recreational marijuana becoming legal in Canada on Oct. 17, a number of so-called cannabis lifestyle brands have cropped up on both sides of the border, touting the benefits of cannabis for a range of wellness areas, sex among them. Alongside strains of dried cannabis for smoking or vaping and cannabis-infused oils, some are selling the notion that cannabis makes for better sex – for women, especially.

Tokyo Smoke runs a string of what it calls coffee shops (for the record, they do sell coffee, in addition to cannabis paraphernalia) in Toronto, one in Calgary and several dispensing stores, where actual cannabis can be bought, scheduled to open in Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia pending official legislation. The company recently acquired Van der Pop, a Seattle-based brand that bills itself as “female-focused,” a resource for women to explore “how marijuana relates to better self-care, sex and socializing.” Its workshop offerings include one on sexual health and cannabis held last month in Toronto. Participants of “Women and Weed: Cannabis and Sex” were given a document that claims THC and CBD (two major compounds found in marijuana) calm the mind, and that THC stimulates mood and arousal, creates heightened genital sensitivity and intensifies orgasms. “There’s a system in our body engineered to work with cannabis …and it has mind-blowing results for sex,” said April Pride, Van der Pop’s founder and both companies’ chief creative officer. “I want women who struggle [with sexual dysfunction] to walk away feeling like they have another tool in their arsenal.”

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