Legalizing marijuana leads to increased sexual activity among residents where cannabis is legal and freely available, according to a new study published in the Journal of Health Economics. With that increase in activity between the sheets comes an increase in births and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
Marijuana users know that the high derived from THC, the psychoactive component in marijuana, can profoundly increase the pleasures of sex. And it took a team of researchers led by Professor David Simon, PhD, of the University of Connecticut, to scientifically look at what legalizing marijuana actually means when it comes to sex.
Looking at the habits of people in their 20s and 30s, comparing those in states where pot is legal to those where it is not, Dr. Simon’s team found that, in states where marijuana is legal, more people are having more sex. And of course, where there is more sex, there are more babies, and more STDs.
However, perhaps unexpectedly, the study also notes that evidence suggests that marijuana use brings on physiological changes that lead to a decrease in fertility.
“Our findings on births suggest that behavioral factors can counteract the physiological changes from marijuana use that tend to decrease fertility,” the study’s authors note.
So how can marijuana cause both an increase in babies and a decrease in fertility at the same time? Dr. Simon’s team posits that the answer lies in marijuana’s tendency to cause its users to think more in the moment. Or, as Dr. Simon describes it, “increased attention to the immediate hedonic effects of sexual contact.” That means they’re thinking less about the long-term consequences of their behavior.
In other words, a couple gearing up for a roll in the hay, while under the influence of marijuana, is going to be less likely to use protection, such as condoms.
“To the degree that marijuana impairs judgement or limits communication between partners, marijuana use could cause a decrease in contraceptives that might result in unplanned pregnancies or the spread of STDs,” Simon tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
The effects on society at large can be mixed, Dr. Simon says. For example, the U.S. has seen a decline in birth rates over the past four decades, so younger couples having more babies thanks to legal weed could help reverse that trend. Or it could lead to more kids born into bad situations and requiring more social services. And of course, an increase in STDs can cause additional stress on the health care system.
Simon says that these factors are things that need to be considered when legislators consider whether or not to legalize marijuana.