It’s no secret that men and women’s bodies operate a little differently. So, it’s hardly surprising that these differences would have an impact on how each interacts with cannabis. However, the impact of gender has only recently become a subject of study and not just in the cannabis industry. Women have historically been excluded from drug-related testing under the premise that their bodies don’t produce reliable results. This sample bias has limited our understanding of how cannabis affects each sex. Exploring this difference is important because cannabis acts on the endocrine systems of the body where hormones play a major role in operations and as we all know, hormones differ drastically from one sex to the other. While we don’t yet understand the role gender plays in cannabis use, there are a few things we’ve uncovered that might just intrigue you.

Men Experience Greater External Pain Relief From Cannabis

According to a new study from Drug and Alcohol Dependence, women don’t appear to receive the same pain relief from cannabis as men. The study analyzed men and women’s ability to hold their hands in extremely cold water, a method known as the Cold Pressor Test, after consuming cannabis. The time it took for them to take their hands out was measured along with their perception of pain and men were reported to experience Battle of the sexes, woman's hand in iceless pain overall. However, it should be noted that this study utilized regular smokers and since other studies have shown that women gain tolerance to THC faster than males, this could have unduly influenced the results. Dr. Ziva Cooper of Columbia University had this to say,”We think the reason why we’re seeing this differential effect, where males in our lab see this pain-relieving effect and females didn’t, might be due to the fact that we’re dealing with really heavy cannabis smokers. Another thing to keep in mind that this is not a blanket statement about cannabis or cannabinoids, or their pain-relieving effects in women.” 

Keep in mind that this study examined pain as a result of external stimuli only and did not examine pain on a chronic basis, such as that caused by inflammation, stress, and other biological causes

This is important because cannabis boasts a plethora of benefits from the varied cannabinoids it contains and these have potent effects on inflammation and other internal causes of pain.

Women Develop Tolerance and Habit Faster Than Men

Washington State University conducted a study in 2014 that indicates that women may build up a tolerance for cannabis at a much faster rate than their male counterparts. The study examined the effects of THC on male and female rats. In the beginning of the study, the female rats demonstrated a higher sensitivity to THC than the males but after just ten days of testing, the female rats were found to need higher doses than males to achieve the same results. Professor Rebecca Craft of WSU has said, “It’s not entirely predictive, but if you become rapidly tolerant to a drug, you may be at greater risk for developing an addiction.”

While marijuana addiction is rare, it’s still something to consider, especially in light of a 2011 study which found that women tended to go from first puff to regular habit much faster than men

This may have something to do with the fact that women tend to utilize marijuana for different reasons than men. Women are more likely to utilize weed to improve mood and tame stress.

Women Are More Likely To Experience Visuospatial Memory Issues

Visuospatial memory is the form of memory that allows you to recall directions and locations. It’s how you remember how to get to grandma’s hWoman smoking cannabis blunt, battle of the sexes ouse and where you stored the Christmas lights in the garage. Unfortunately, a 2010 study indicates that women may be more likely to experience memory impairment than men, specifically visuospatial memory, while high. The study put 35 men and 35 women through a battery of neurological assessments after smoking cannabis and while many areas showed no significant difference between the sexes, this one seemed to favor the guys.

Men Are More Likely To Experience Psychosis

While cannabis-induced psychosis is incredibly rare, a 2015 study shows that it is more likely to occur in men than in women. The study examined hospital admissions for cannabis-induced psychosis and found that men were admitted four times more often than women. Generally speaking, men have been shown to smoke twice as much cannabis as women, but even that rate does not make up for the huge ratio difference for psychosis!

The Sexes Need to be Studied

Despite the studies that have been done to date, there is still a great deal of work left to do, especially considering the gaping holes in much of the research we do have. Unfortunately, due to marijuana’s classification as a Schedule I drug, research is very difficult.

Sample demographics are skewed, strains available for testing are severely limited, and pharmaceutical research in general lags far behind in studying effects on women

So, take everything you hear with a grain of salt. Cannabis is a complex plant that we are only just beginning to scratch the surface of in terms of its interactions with the human body.

In the meanwhile, rely on your own judgement and experience. If you find that cannabis affects you differently than those around you, that’s okay because every individual body is different. Tailor your consumption to meet your needs and always consume responsibly!

Amber Faust

About the author: Amber Faust is a freelance writer and editor who specializes in natural lifestyle pieces and sociopolitical commentary. Amber is a lifelong activist for social justice and environmental issues. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, painting, drumming, meditation, and yoga.