Teens in their parents' basements, gaggles of friends at music festivals, the stressed-out worker alone in their apartment — smoking weed has now extended to seemingly limitless environments, as the drug gains more and more acceptance and takes on an added sheen of medicinal respectability.
But marijuana's increasingly widespread use isn't limited to solo acts. Turns out that partners who are both inclined to light up may find weed brings with it several relationship benefits. While companies race to find the next Viagra and singles turn to alcohol to act as a social lubricant, the ideal substance to help our connections along might be sitting right in front of us.
1. Weed can help couples open up emotionally.
Some users report that smoking can help them lower their guard and be open to their partner's perspective.
"I find that when emotions get heated and during arguments, a weed break ... gives me a chance to gain a different perspective on where they're coming from," Christopher, a 32-year-old Brooklyn resident, told Mic of his long-term relationship with Wendy, 27.
"I've definitely had patients tell me that when they smoke they feel more open emotionally," Dr. Julie Holland, editor of The Pot Book: A Complete Guide to Cannabis, told Mic. "If two people have ingested cannabis, they may move away from this emotional ledge and into what they're really feeling."
That emotional openness may be due to the THC in marijuana, the high-inducing element. Studies have shown that the THC from weed attaches to our cannabinoid receptors and can interact with our emotional processing — an action that could trickle down into your interactions with those around you.
2. Just a bit of weed can alleviate anxiety.
Plenty of people say weed helps calm them down, and there's a good reason why. Our bodies and brains contain an enzyme called FAAH (fatty acid amide hydrolase), which breaks down anandamide, an endocannabinoid that's been called the "bliss molecule". If you have more anandamide breaking down, Holland says, "you're going to be more anxious." CBD, an element of marijuana, suppresses FAAH, which means less anandamide breakdown — and possibly more "bliss."
While the THC in marijuana can lead to paranoia, Dr. Holland says that the CBD in marijuana can be useful in the treatment of anxiety. That can be crucial for partners in a relationship, as stress and anxiety can lead to conflict and even reduce sex drive. Speaking of which...
3. Your sex life may thank you.
It doesn't affect everyone, but marijuana can work wonders in the bedroom for some people. "I feel, like, a lot more able to lose yourself in the moment, spend less time thinking about am I doing this right, spend less time being body-conscious and just be amorous. You're a more sensual being — as long as you don't freak out," Christopher told Mic.
Being able to lose yourself and calm down is key for sex, where someone's self-consciousness and insecurity can prevent real, honest intimacy. As Wendy told Mic, "I love Granddaddy Purp, which I discovered while dating Christopher, as it's helped me relax and enjoy sex, whereas in the past I've had a lot of anxiety surrounding it."
Marijuana has also been shown to have actual physical effects on sex. As Fusion reported, "Participants in [a series of 1970s and 1980s] studies reported enhanced touch, heightened intimacy, stronger orgasms and better sex in general."
4. Weed is linked to lower rates of domestic violence.
As Mic previously reported, a 2014 study in the journal Psychology of Addictive Behaviors found a link between couples that smoke marijuana together and lower rates of domestic violence. The study, spanning the course of nine years and surveying 634 couples, doesn't pin down quite how the correlation works. But as far as substances contributing to domestic violence go, it is noteworthy that marijuana doesn't come close to the negative effect of, say, alcohol in leading to partner harm.
5. Smoking together means bonding over a shared interest.
"Having dated someone who smokes and doesn't smoke, there is a bonding that occurs [when you smoke], the same way that people bond over drinks," Christopher told Mic.
Couples with shared interests who continue to go out and have fun together stayed happiest and together longest. As Mic reported, couples that continue to pursue activities together report higher levels of satisfaction and attraction. According to an Open University study in 2013, having shared interests is seen as a "key connector in the couple relationship."
Lighting up together might just be the most enjoyable connector you have.