As more and more states legalize medical and recreational cannabis, we’re getting more and more actual scientific research about the effect weed has on humans beyond, and I’m being scientific af when I say this, “being just great.” After all, Carl Sagan himself once wrote “the illegality of cannabis is outrageous, an impediment to full utilization of a drug which helps produce the serenity and insight, sensitivity and fellowship so desperately needed in this increasingly mad and dangerous world.”
Previous research has suggested that marijuana lowers sperm count. However, new research suggests the opposite, as reported in Human Reproduction:
Men who had ever smoked marijuana had significantly higher sperm concentration than men who had never smoked marijuana. There were no significant differences in sperm concentration between current and past marijuana smokers. A similar pattern was observed for total sperm count.Furthermore, the adjusted prevalence of sperm concentration and total sperm motility below WHO reference values among marijuana smokers was less than half that of never marijuana smokers.
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So not only did users have higher sperm counts, but their sperm was also better at swimming. From 2000 to 2017, the researchers collected 1143 semen samples from 662 men involved in the study.
So, you know, good news for people who smoke. Or if you’re done having kids, maybe it’s not so great!
But like I said in the story about how cheese protects you from all types of death, this doesn’t necessarily mean that weed will boost your sperm. Matt Davis expanded on this idea in his piece for Big Think:
While the results seem clear, it’s important to take this research with a grain of salt. Firstly, this was a correlation study: there was no way to say whether smoking marijuana caused these differences, just that they were associated. Furthermore, there’s a few different ways to interpret the results. Nassan explains that there are two different possible interpretations: “The first [is that] that low levels of marijuana use could benefit sperm production because of its effect on the endocannabinoid system, which is known to play a role in fertility.” Endocannabinoids are a broad group of neurotransmitters that bind to cannabinoid receptors throughout the brain and peripheral nervous system. They handle a few different jobs in the body, including regulating appetite, mood, motivation, and—of course—fertility. Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, and it binds to these receptors, producing the high associated with the drug and potentially improving aspects of fertility.
What this says is that more research is needed. In the Congressional hearing today, Colorado Rep. Joe Neguse asked Matthew Whitaker about holdups in research requests for cannabis. Whitaker explained that there are international treaties involved that impact the movement of weed from growers to the researchers, and Whitaker promised to get back to the committee with more information. I’m not familiar with what these could be – hopefully someone with more legal experience reads this and reaches out to explain it better – but I found that to be interesting.
As more and more states legalize it, we will undoubtedly see more and more research happen. Regardless, we already know that it’s significantly less harmful than other drugs, such as alcohol.
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