cannabis, medical access and sex
Over the past several months new business have been popping up around Maryland. They’re often plain from the outside. On the inside, they’re selling medical marijuana. Getting to this point has taken years.
The growth and distribution system is problematic in multiple ways. Getting the license to grow, process or dispense is heavily weighted toward people with money, the vast majority of whom are White men. The system to get access to the medicine is also heavily weighted to people with privilege. As a state, we still have a long way to go to make the system equitable. This session, the Maryland Black Caucus passed a bill that goes a few steps in the right direction, including establishing a fund to pay for subsidized access to cannabis for people with a medical need who cannot afford it on their own.
We’re on our way.
And it’s 4:20.
So let’s talk about how purposeful use of cannabis can enhance sexual activity, reduce pain and treat specific sexual issues!
I called Ashley Manta, a sex educator, coach and the founder of CannaSexual. CannaSexual is a word Ashley created to describe anyone who mindfully, deliberately combines sex and cannabis. I’ve known Ashley through the sex educator community for years. She’s someone I trust. And I had questions.
As a sex educator, I’ve spent a lot of time telling people they shouldn’t combine sex and drugs or alcohol. At Sugar, we talk about being present in your body during sex, and not using products to distance yourself from sensation. Cannabis is a drug. And a medicine. How is it different?
I’ve been hearing from friends and other educators time that cannabis, unlike alcohol, heightened sensation and helped people feel more present in the moment, not less. “When I started using cannabis during sex, I started feeling more of me, feeling my skin, my senses were heightened,” my coworker told me. Ashley Manta agreed.
Several years ago, Ashley was blogging about sex and also working full time in a sex positive sex toy store. She chose to write about, and name, the man who had raped her years before. The response was overwhelming. She was flooded with other survivors contacting her and sharing that they had been thru the same thing with the same person. Other survivors contacted her and were empowered to share their own stories. She was grateful. She was honored. And, “I had to take a leave of absence because my PTSD flared so badly that I couldn’t work. I was having panic attacks, I was having flash backs,” Ashley said. She didn’t have health insurance. But she was in California. She turned to cannabis. It helped.
“The sexual side effect of my PTSD was feeling completely divorced from my body, disassociating,not experiencing pleasure, not being in the mood for sex. Being a sex educator and being totally turned off by sex was just not working for me,” Manta says, “cannabis really, really helped…I found Foria, which is a THC infused oil that goes on your genitals. That helped with the pain with penetration and increasing the pleasurable sensations. I could put aside the “sex hurts”. The cannabis helped me get out of my head and actually be in my body and enjoy what was happening instead of feeling like my stomach was clenching every time someone wanted to touch me.”
Cannabis’ use around sexuality is varied. It can be used to reduce chronic pain, making sexual activity more accessible, especially for people who live with chronic pain. It can be used to reduce both stress and anxiety, which often interferes with feeling sexy. When used in small amounts, it can help people get out of their heads and into their bodies. Used directly on the genitals, it can reduce pain with vaginal intercourse, and it may help with to get and/or maintain an erection.
I asked Ashley what she thought best practice should be around introducing cannabis into your sex life. First, she addressed the importance of consent, “There are non psychoactive ways to consume, there is, of course the option, and my preferred method, of negotiating before you medicate. Talk about everything, figure out what’s on the table, what do you want to do, what do you not want to do…especially with new partners… if you’re in a longer term relationship where you have consumed cannabis together repeatedly…there’s a lot more leeway there.”
She went on to recommend staying away from combining edibles and sex, “Eating edibles is the easiest way to overconsume…especially homemade edibles, they are almost impossible to dose accurately.” Ashley suggests starting out with small amounts of cannabis that is smoked, vaped or in a tincture. Start by trying it on your own. “Just get a small amount of whatever strain you want to try and smoke a little bit of it on your own. And then masturbate. And notice how your body reacts so that you know, when I’m in a sexual situation, this is how this impacts me.”
What about using cannabis infused lube? Products made from cannabis cannot be shipped or sold across state line. Currently, there is not a cannabis infused lube available in Maryland. But, if you’re even a little bit crafty, you can make some at home. Ashley suggested, “You could do it on the cheap with a crock pot, but if you want to spend a little money and shell out $200, you can get this oil infuser that works with cannabis or any other herb that you want to infuse into oil…The company is called LEVO and it’s this beautiful machine, you fill with the herb of your choice, notably cannabis for these purposes. It infuses the oil. It’s got a digital read out to tell you, based on a couple of variables, like the kind of oil that you’re using, how long and what temperature to let it infuse. They have that whole breakdown on the website and you could totally DIY that shit forever and put in exactly what you want, exactly what kind of oil you want that works best with your body”. Don’t forget, oil will make a condom break - so, if you’re using any kind of oil, cannabis infused or otherwise, and you need to use a condom for pregnancy prevention or to protect against STIs or HIV, use a polyurethane condom!
Cannabis has a number of applications around sex. What all it’s good for, or at exactly what dosage, we don’t know yet. Doing cannabis related research in the United States is difficult. “It’s so powerful. There are so many applications. The science is still in it’s infancy with cannabis,” says Manta. So, until the science catches up, you’re going to need to do your own experimenting. If you choose to combine cannabis with your sex, remember:
Start with small amounts
Use it first alone
With a partner, negotiate before medication or use non=psychoactive methods
And lastly, glory in being present in your body and with your partner!
Personal note: I have a medical cannabis recommendation in Maryland. I have two related medical conditions that have not responded well to other medication (anxiety and insomnia). Cannabis is a godsend for my health. It’s been especially helpful as I heal from a concussion and have concussion related head aches and nausea.
In order to access this medicine, I had to get a copy of my medical records, documenting my condition and that it was not currently being treated well by other medication. That means, I had to have a history of access to medical care, I had to have transportation to pick up my medical records. To register with the state of Maryland I went on the website and signed up for the program. In order to do that, I needed a passport style photo, a photo ID and documentation of my Maryland address. I had to scan and upload all of those documents. For this part, I needed to be someone who was housed, had a photo ID, could get to a place that would take a passport picture, and pay for the picture, and have access to both the internet. Next, I made an appointment with a clinician certified by the state of Maryland to make a recommendation for cannabis. In order to find such a clinician, I needed access to the internet to find a doctor (most dispensaries also have cards for certified clinicians in their waiting rooms), transportation to the appointment and $200 to pay for the visit (not covered by insurance). Then, I waited for my application to the state to finish processing and my number to be associated with the recommendation. After all of that, I got to go to the dispensary. Dispensaries only accept cash. Credit card companies won’t process their money. In fact, most banks won’t accept their deposits. So, I needed access to a decent amount of cash. The vial of CBD oil that I purchased was $150. A vape cartridge was $75. While it’s hard to get those specific products through the underground economy, it’s also more expensive to purchase them legally.
The current medical cannabis system in Maryland is set up to benefit people with barrels of privilege; largely, White people with access to medical care, money and transportation. It does little to address the disproportionate arrests and incarceration of people of color for marijuana related charges. Under current state law, I am allowed to carry cannabis on my person. Someone with exactly the same medical history, but with less access, is not. I am grateful that cannabis is now legally available for some in Maryland. Now we need to make sure it is available in an equitable manner. A manner that ends the mass incarceration of people for selling or using a drug that is less dangerous than alcohol or many prescription medications.