Abby Acham says she would never have sex with anyone who isn’t comfortable with her cannabis use.
The 38-year-old Fanshawe College student says there are a few reasons it’s so important to her. For one, it helps to loosen her hips, which can be sore from arthritis, so she can perform sexually and engage in different positions. But it also helps her mentally, to get out of her head and into her body.
Ideally, she’ll relax and connect for an hour or two with a partner over a blunt before heading to the bedroom — or wherever things heat up.
“Cannabis is like foreplay,” she says on a video call from London, Ontario. “I find it actually turns me on a little bit and heightens my arousal even more. And I find, especially if I've been consuming cannabis and drinking, then I'm like, definitely ready to go.”
But going through the pandemic as a single woman, it’s been more difficult to find the right partners on dating apps. In addition to not wanting to be with anyone who smokes cigarettes and only desiring partners who share her love for weed or are at least okay with hers, she now has to be wary of Covid-19, and vets partners for their vaccination status and their risk of exposure.
“I can count, probably on one hand, the amount of sex and sex partners I’ve had during the pandemic,” she says, sighing. “It hasn’t been easy.”
Acham isn’t alone. While it’s not yet clear how the coronavirus pandemic has affected sexuality as a whole, so far it’s not looking great. While some experts predicted a pandemic “baby boom” as a result of the pandemic, many others have reported a wilting sexual appetite and fewer opportunities to get busy than ever.
A 2021 meta-analysis of seven international studies published in the journal Sexologies shows that — due to stay-at-home orders; virus transmission anxiety; grief; shuttered clubs, gyms, bars and bathhouses; financial and housing woes; less exercise; or, for those lucky enough to work from home, an endless daily grind living life online in sweatpants or pyjamas — sexual activity has largely suffered since the pandemic hit in 2020.
And yet there’s an abundance of cannabis, and an increasing number of products designed to increase blood flow and stimulate the senses. Whether you’re spending more time solo and watching porn or looking for something new to try with a partner, there are a lot of different ways to safely experiment and explore.
In Seeking the Sacred with Psychoactive Substances: Chemical Paths to Spirituality and to God, writer David Hillman argues that for many pre-Christian, ancient civilizations, “intercourse was religion, orgiastic ecstasy was enlightenment, and drug-induced sexual climax was a mechanism of dimensional travel.”
Take Ancient Rome, for example. According to Hillman, Priapus was the god of erections, characterized in art by his — you guessed it — massive, throbbing cock, which was symbolic of both sexuality and power. As the protector of priestesses, oracles and witches, anyone who wanted to see them was “tied up and ‘purified’ with the rectal insertion of a medicated dildo.” The medication, dubbed satyrion, was a combination of snake venom, cannabis and other substances, and brought on a heady, sexual delirium.
For followers of Tantra in second century India, sex was meditative and transcendent, characterized by lengthy sessions not focused on the finish, but the journey. Before engaging in tantric sex, according to The Great Book of Hemp, adherents would chant and conjure the goddess Kali over a bowl of bhang, a cannabis-derived drink. “Following several more mantras, the seekers would drink the mixture and engage in ritual love making,” writes author Rowan Robinson.
But now, in 2022, is it still possible to transcend some of the grimness of the pandemic by combining cannabis with sex?
So far, research indicates that it’s worth a shot. In a 2019 study published in Sex Med, 34% of women “reported increases in sex drive, improvement in orgasm, decrease in pain, but no change in lubrication.” Somewhat astonishingly, they also found that regular cannabis users, whether they used it in conjunction with sex or not, “had 2.10 times higher odds of reporting satisfactory orgasms than those with infrequent marijuana use.”
And it’s not just for women. In another set of 2019 findings published in Sex Med, both men and women reported “that cannabis helped them relax, heightened their sensitivity to touch, and increased intensity of feelings, thus enhancing their sexual experience, while others found that cannabis interfered by making them sleepy and less focused or had no effect on their sexual experience.”
Armed with all of this encouraging evidence, Canadian cannabis companies have gone above and beyond flower and edibles to develop a number of sex-enhancing topicals and lubricants. Latitude by 48North’s Sex Pot Intimacy Oil, for example, blends natural oils with 400 mg of THC. Proofly makes an infused lube with 125 mg of CBD, as well as a warming massage oil with 125 mg of CBD.
While topicals won’t get you high, they are designed to relax tense muscles, ease pain, increase blood flow and can even potentially intensify physical sensations.
But this year, the hype has really been all about Prairie Grass brand and their cannabis-infused suppositories, inspired by similar products formerly available in compassion clubs. Available so far in Ontario on the adult-use market and in every province for medical consumers, they were developed by sisters Olivia Penner, a registered nurse, and Rebecca Thomson, a pharmacist.
Using cannabis grown on their family outdoor hemp farm and indoor facility in Grassy Lake, Alberta, Relief Pods have 10 mg of THC per suppository, and Eve Pods each have 40 mg of CBD. And rather than the greasy cocoa butter formulations of yore, these are made with an amphiphilic base, meaning they’re water-soluble and should more easily absorb in the vaginal or rectal mucosa.
“The nice thing — this is obviously very anecdotal — is that we often found that an oil base has too much lubrication,” Thomson says in a video call. “So what we have found is that this is kind of the perfect amount. It's not too much.”
So far, Montreal-based High On Love relies on hemp oil rather than cannabinoids in their sex-focused formulations (although their US products, launching in Colorado and a few other states on Valentine’s Day, will contain THC and CBD). And because they aren’t restricted by Health Canada’s cannabis regs, the packaging is creative and the products are wide-ranging, from chocolate body paint to warming Stimulating O Gel.
But founder Angela Mustone says two major trends have emerged in the last year: a mainstream push toward experimenting with anal sex, and personal use products like bath oils.
“It’s all about me-time and allowing yourself to be selfish,” she says.
As for Abby Acham in London, she’s offsetting her sporadic dating life with meet-ups with her fellow Afro Cannada Bud Sistas, a cannabis community for Black women. Every Saturday, she hosts sex-focused discussions with fellow members on various topics, and if you fit the demographic, you’re invited to join the conversation. For now she’s sticking to vaping and smoking, but she’s excited to try some new formats when the pandemic loses some of its grip.
“I'm curious to try them out, but I haven't ventured in that direction yet,” she says. “I’m not having enough sex to want to do that, but when I feel like things are back at peak sexual levels I would be more like: Okay, let me go stock up on condoms. Let me try some new cannabis lubes.”