[Editor’s Note: Many people believe that cannabis is an aphrodisiac. Maybe it’s true. Maybe…]
It could be seen as a sign of marijuana legalization’s stunning, worldview-smashing success that cannabis has acquired its own version of climate-change deniers, a loud minority who choose to ignore the prevailing findings accepted by mainstream science and medicine. Medical cannabis appears to be good for chronic pain, good for AIDS and cancer patients and very likely good for other things including, according to more recent research, making babies.
U.S. states that have legalized marijuana for medical purposes “can expect a moderate increase in birth rates,” according to researchers from the University of Connecticut, where medical cannabis is legal, released earlier this week.
Mom, Dad, Where Do Higher Birth Rates Come From?
For their working paper titled “Sex, Drugs, and Baby Booms: Can Behavior Overcome Biology?”, economics professors Michele Baggio and David Simon perused data from all 50 states, including birth certificates, “purchase trends of condoms” and health patterns for parents and youth.
They looked at states that legalized marijuana between 2004 and 2011, specifically at data from people in their 20s and 30s, who are generally the most likely to use cannabis, according to most use studies. In doing so, they found that states with medical marijuana saw an increase of four births per 10,000 women of childbearing age, according to a news release from the university.
The study follows prior research that shows where marijuana is legal, more people tend to use marijuana. Or, at least, they’re more honest and open about their marijuana use to researchers and survey-takers. It also accepts, as we do, the reams of anecdotal evidence that suggests cannabis is a mood enhancer for many people.
The right cannabis product applied in the right amount “heightens sensory perception, increases relaxation, and reduces stress and anxiety,” the researchers note in the study. In this context, they extrapolate that “attitudes and perceptions toward sexual activity may be affected as well.” That is, marijuana users may engage in what some social scientists may deem “risk-taking behavior”— increased sexual activity, increased frequency of sexual activity and both without birth control measures like condoms.
Well, When a Man and a Woman Love Each Other (and Legalization) Very Much…
Researchers weren’t sure if marijuana makes users friskier and thus more likely to engage in sex or simply less likely to bother with using a condom during normal patterns of sexual activity. All they know is that in places where cannabis is legal, “we just see more people having more sex and more kids,” said Simon, who with his colleagues called for more research into cannabis’s effects on human biology.
Simply put, they saw birth rates increase in places were weed is legal and aren’t sure if it’s the weed or something else, but there’s enough of a correlation for it to be noteworthy.
From a sociological lens, it’s important to note the cultural divide here. Fringe movements often point to decreased birth rates in places like Europe, where most citizens enjoy things like government-provided housing and healthcare and workplace protections, as a sign of some kind of moral decay brought on by “liberalism.”
It would also be particularly interesting to examine birth rates from places like Arkansas, Ohio, North Dakota and Oklahoma, red states with less economic activity and growth than traditional legalization hotbeds l ike Colorado, California, Washington and Nevada, all of which have fast-growing metro areas drawing new residents from all over the world — most of whom don’t smoke marijuana.
But maybe there’s something to be said for “aphrodisiac” marijuana strains like Sexpot. Maybe, lurking somewhere, just waiting to be found, there is science.
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