This interview was originally published in the December 2001 issue of HIGH TIMES.
Dr. Lester Grinspoon, a psychiatrist, is a retired professor at the Harvard Medical School and a well-published author in the field of drugs and drug policy. He has authored more than 140 articles in scientific journals and twelve books, including Marijuana Reconsidered and Marijuana, The Forbidden Medicine. According to Dr. Grinspoon, whether marijuana is an aphrodisiac depends on your definition.
Do you believe pot is an aphrodisiac?
When I wrote Marijuana Reconsidered back in 1967, I was very interested in all questions regarding marijuana. There wasn’t a lot of literature on the subject. There still isn’t. But research seemed to indicate that marijuana was not an aphrodisiac, which is what I found for the most part. Although there was some ambiguity.
What was that?
I concluded that it greatly enhances the sexual experience for many people. There’s no doubt that when people are high, they’re more sensitive to their sexual feelings and urges. In that sense, it may be an aphrodisiac. But it is not an aphrodisiac in the sense that it would lead to an erection or any other manifestation of arousal. One of the reasons I was interested in marijuana is because of what Harry Anslinger said back in the thirties – if you smoke marijuana, you’re gonna commit rape! Of course, that’s just utter nonsense. But the question remains, was there something to that? Did it behave as a sexual stimulant in that it would cause people to do things they might not otherwise do, like force sex on someone? My conclusion is that it would not.
Many people say their thoughts naturally drift toward the sexual realm when they’re high, in the same way as food. Is it the same thing?
No. When one smokes marijuana, it’s much more likely that someone will go looking in the refrigerator, go out and buy some junk food or eat food you might not otherwise eat – forget your diet. Then it does affect behavior. I think for some people munchies are a problem. Americans are overweight anyway. For health reasons many people have to be careful about not getting beyond a healthy weight. To some extent, marijuana can make that difficult. With sex, it’s more along the lines of once you’re there, pot can afford greater enhancement. But I think it’s less likely to generate sexual behavior unless the attraction is already there. It’s not going to make you a lunatic. [Laughing] As if you’re with a bunch of strangers and you smoke and you see someone attractive and you just gotta have ‘em! It’s not the same as a bunch of snacks sitting nearby and – darn t! – you’re gonna eat ‘em. But marijuana does enhance sexual pleasure. But to the extent that someone’s definition includes the initiation of a sexual encounter when all else is equal, I think that’s less so.
Many men say pot helps prevent premature ejaculation.
Yes, definitely. It helps some people, but not everybody. With marijuana, you must take biological variations into account. Premature ejaculation is a psycho-physiological response. No one knows how that works. No one has mapped that out.
Then how do you determine whether pot can help someone?
One of the reasons I’m criticized is that there are no double-blind studies for marijuana. It’s nearly all anecdotal. In medicine, when I prescribe a drug, I do a little risk-benefit analysis in my head. If I’m considering suggesting marijuana, that risk-benefit analysis always comes out in favor of trying it, because marijuana is such a minimally toxic substance. For example, if you have pain and I prescribe Percocet – God forbid! – I do a risk-benefit analysis. But some people can get addicted. Why not try cannabis? I can’t be sure it’s going to help you, but I’m going to try and help you with your chronic arthritic pain, and I’m relatively sure it’s not going to hurt you. Look, if you come to me and tell me that you’re having difficulty in getting turned on sexually, or that you’re experiencing premature ejaculation or erectile dysfunction, I might ask, “Have you ever tried marijuana before? It won’t hurt you. You might try it.”