Women and Weed: How Cannabis Affects Us Differently

Woman staring at the camera with smoke rising up around her

For many years, pot has been synonymous with men – a potriarchy, if you will. It was often assumed that guys were much more into ganja than the gals. But, while this assumption is somewhat accurate – studies suggest that men do smoke more cannabis than women (or, at least, they admit they do) – women are certainly not anti-marijuana. In fact, not only is the cannabis industry experiencing a surge in female entrepreneurs, growers, shop owners, and users, but women also played a huge role in recreational legalization. In short, cannabis needs us Mary Janes in its corner.

Women and Amendment 64

According to Newsweek, women were essential to the passing of Amendment 64 – the amendment that legalized recreational weed in Colorado. Going into it, many lawmakers knew this: California’s Prop 19 – which aimed to legalize cannabis for personal use – failed in 2010, largely women and cannabis because women just said no.

In Colorado and Washington – the two states who legalized first – women were the key demographic. Per the Global Drug Policy Observatory, women between the ages of 30 and 50 were of the most importance.

This, of course, isn’t to say that women could have legalized without men. Rather, it was a joint effort, with the battle of the sexes put on hold for the passage of the blunts.

Marijuana’s Influence on Women

Although women play an instrumental role in the marijuana movement, many of the studies involving cannabis focus on how weed impacts men. And sometimes these effects are different depending on gender.

One reason for this deviation is estrogen, specifically the way it interacts with THC. Per Herb Magazine, women experience the most potent cannabis highs in the days right before they ovulate – this is when their estrogen levels peak. But this sensitivity may not be limited to pre-ovulation spikes – estrogen can make women more sensitive to THC regardless of where they are in their cycles.

A study conducted at Washington State University found that female rats experienced 30 percent more pain relief from THC treatment

But rat models are tricky and don’t always correlate with us homo-sapiens. Some studies suggest the opposite to be true and find that women need higher doses of cannabis (or more direct delivery routes) to achieve the pain relief that men experience.

But, again, trickiness prevails: women and men feel pain differently anyway and pain is hard to measure even among people of the same gender. It’s far too subjective.

Cannabis Withdrawal

It’s been well established that cannabis is not a gateway drug (no, not to opiates, Sean Spicer). But people can certainly experience withdrawal symptoms if they go from heavy use to stopping cold turkey. In some studies, this heavy use equates to daily smoking for decades.When this withdrawal does occur, women tend to feel it more acutely.

Women are more likely to experience insomnia, irritability, and lack of appetite

Cannabis and Tolerance

The same Washington State University study mentioned above found that women build up tolerance to THC quicker than their male counterparts. In the experiment, scientists found that female rats needed higher doses of THC after a 10-day period than the male rats. Of course, they didn’t experiment with a myriad of flowers – different strains can always result in different outcomes.

Cannabis and Libido

Many men are aware that cannabis doesn’t always meld with the ol’ sex life. Usually, it’s recommended that men stick to strains with moderate doses of THC. Women’s libido, in regards to cannabis, is more complicated.

Some studies suggest that women should heed the same advice as men: aim for strains without too much THC. These studies argue that too much has a negative effect on estrogen and decreases the female libido. Other studies suggest the opposite:

THC is beneficial to the female libido at any percentage

Anecdotal evidence seems to favor the latter, with many women claiming there is no such thing as the too-high-tango. Yet, again, this is very strain dependent: an indica strain is likely to effect libido differently than one that’s pure or dominated by sativa. Maybe the next time you want to get frisky you can try a strain like Sour Diesel to get things going.

Cannabis and the Munchies

Straight out of the best news ever section, women don’t experience the munchies to the same degree as men. In the Washington State study discussed above, the male rats experienced more munchies than the females. This appears to be true for humans too. Maybe it’s because men eat more anyway, but cannabis certainly seems to add to this awakened hunger.

Anyone worried about eating too much when they’re high can help themselves by staying away from strains that induce appetite…or handcuffing themselves to their bathroom sink until the high passes.

Cannabis and Psychosis

Not all strains of marijuana are capable of psychosis – CBD strains don’t really offer much of a high. But even the strains loaded with THC don’t usually cause this phenomenon: psychosis is rare.  Still, women are less likely to experience it than men and at a ratio of 2:1. There may also be a genetic component involved. According to a study published in the Journal women and cannabis of Translational Psychiatry, a mutation in the AKT1 gene may leave people more susceptible to marijuana’s mind-altering effects.

While woman may be safer from psychosis, they do experience other side effects more often. Dizziness and anxiety is more common in women, regardless of strain.

Cannabis and Memory

Women may experience more memory impairment when smoking up. In a study entitled “Sex, Drugs, and Cognition: Effects of Marijuana,” researchers found that cannabis affected visuospatial memory in women more than men (but in women who smoked chronically).

Visuospatial memory is a type of memory that allows a person to perceive objects as well as spatial relationships

Simply, it gives us the ability to look at a square and call it a square.

However, some studies suggest that men are better at visuospatial memory anyway, with cannabis or without. This may play a role in any impairment that exists. In other words, for the men out there who think women never forget, keep thinking that: we don’t.

Women and Weed: How Cannabis Affects Us Differently was last modified: by
Jenn Keeler
About Jenn Keeler
Jenn Keeler is a freelance writer and illustrator specializing in humorous lifestyle articles. She is one of the few people on earth actually using an English degree. Her heart belongs to the Denver Broncos and her husband. In that order.