When sex advice columnist Dan Savage hosted a live version of his Savage Love podcast in Denver, Colorado, he invited a male member of the audience to go backstage, insert into his rectum a butt plug covered in THC lube, then come back out and periodically report how high he was feeling.
Unfortunately, these days this is about as sophisticated as the science of cannabis lube gets. Despite loads of sexy cannabis products on the market — like Foria, Sensual Lube by Evolab, and Velvet Swing — and no shortage of anecdotal evidence of marijuana acting as a tool for sexual enhancement or as an aphrodisiac, there has been very little scientific study of how, or if, cannabis interacts with the erogenous zones of our brains and bodies.
Medical marijuana educator Regina Nelson, Ph.D., is looking to change all that. She has partnered with RISE Life Science to conduct the most in-depth study evaluating all the nuanced details of how all these sex products in the newly minted marijuana industry are being used by a wide variety of study participants.
“We want to know how people are responding to these products,” says Nelson. “Was it enhancing? Pleasurable? Did it work? We’re using clinical sexual health data, looking at males, females, transgender persons, LGBTQ, drilling down into people’s narratives to find patterns and trends.”
While the study is only an online survey, Nelson’s goal is to make it a long-term, multifaceted look at the dosing, application and consistency of legal marijuana products used by consumers over a number of years. The study will officially launch this fall with only 200 participants, but aims to grow to thousands over a number of years — throughout which, Nelson and her team will keep in communication with the subjects, learning about the products they dropped vs. those they stuck with (while maintaining a high level of privacy for those who engage with the study).
“As I’ve begun asking sexual health experts to join our advisory board, I’ve discovered a great excitement for this, because no one has been collecting data in this way. They’re hearing anecdotal stories about marijuana as an aphrodisiac, and want data about that,” says Nelson. “Our advisory board will be made up of sexual health experts, mental health professionals, OBGYN’s and neurologists, who will help us to understand the data once it comes in. In time, we want to work with universities globally, because this data will be useful in a lot of different ways.”
The company that has commissioned Nelson’s study, RISE Life Science, is a manufacturer of a soon-to-be-launched CBD lubricant, so the results won’t carry the same clout as those gleaned from an objective university study (though Nelson does clarify that her work and data will not be influenced by RISE in any way). However, university studies (or any publicly funded research) surrounding cannabis are seriously lacking credibility due to suffocating restrictions on the products they can evaluate.
Currently, if any university — even one in a legalized state — wants to conduct a cannabis study, they are restricted to using crops grown under approval by the Drug Enforcement Administration, which is often profoundly misrepresentative of cannabis products already consumed in legalized areas.
For this reason, says Nelson, the double-blind placebo tests typically required for Food and Drug Administration approval on products before they go to market aren’t applicable to her work — because she’s studying products that are already on the market, already being used by millions of consumers. All of whom are using them in different ways, for different aims.
Analysis that looks at the relationship between weed and sex is by no means unprecedented, with the Journal of Sexual Medicine having published a study, titled the “Association Between Marijuana Use and Sexual Frequency in the United States.” The Centers for Disease Control has also collected data on the same topic in its poll of 50,000 people. Both studies show that couples who toke like to get down more often than those who don’t.
But in these, and many other cases, participants are asked vague questions about how often they “use marijuana” or “have sex.” Rarely are questions asked about the products they’re consuming (Vape? Edible? Lube?), the potency of those products, or the quantities in which they’re used. Most mainstream scientists have no idea about the difference between a toke from a bong vs. a one-hitter — and are nearly unanimously clueless about cannabis lube.
The legalized marijuana market has developed far faster than the world of science can keep up with, and so it is more important than ever that cannabis studies are conducted by those with knowledge of how these products are currently being marketed and consumed. As both an author and lecturer in the academic world, and a medical marijuana patient in Denver, Colorado (the unofficial capital of legal weed), Nelson is in the ideal position to straddle those two worlds, using peer-reviewed, scientific process to examine an industry few academics understand, but is already in full effect.
This circumstance won’t last long, though. As legalization spreads, so will the industry, and in time regulators will become more and more desperate for scientific data on the claims businesses are making about their products — particularly ones consumers are placing in the most tender areas of their bodies.
By then, Nelson aims for her data to be a foundational reference point for the science moving forward.
As for RISE, the organization is excited about the Hemp Farming Act of 2018, which will legalize non-psychoactive hemp, thereby opening the floodgates for nationally (and possibly internationally) sold CBD products. RISE hopes to use the data gathered in this study to influence its own CBD sex products.
“There are no globally recognized brands in cannabis yet,” says Mark Komonoski, communications advisor for RISE. “A core goal of RISE is to be one of the early global brands.”
Nelson points to ancillary medical benefits of these cannabis products that come full circle into aiding sexual arousal.
“In working with medical patients, women who use cannabis oil have found relief from bladder plain,” she says. “Which is related to sexual function, because if you’re uncomfortable and crampy all the time, you don’t feel like engaging in intercourse. So, I’m curious to hear more about all the ways people have been using cannabis products to treat discomfort and enhance sexual experiences.”