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Four States Set To Consider Making Female Orgasmic Disorder A Medical Marijuana Qualifying Condition



At least four U.S. states are on track to consider adding female orgasmic disorder (FOD) as a specific qualifying condition for medical marijuana, with supporters pointing to a growing body of research showing that cannabis can significantly improve orgasmic frequency, ease and satisfaction in people with FOD.

Ohio is already in the process of weighing the change. The State Medical Board earlier this month announced that FOD, along with autism spectrum disorder, would move forward for expert review and public comment following petitions submitted online. Comments are being accepted through Thursday.

Regulators in Illinois, meanwhile, are set to meet next month about adding FOD as a qualifying condition, while New Mexico is slated to consider the issue in May, according to organizers at the nonprofit Female Orgasm Research Institute. Connecticut, too, is looking into the addition, the group said, though no meeting date has been set.

Suzanne Mulvehill, founder and executive director of the organization, is one of the leaders behind the push for states to formally recognize the benefits that cannabis can offer people with FOD, which she said affects up to 41 percent of women worldwide. Last year she submitted a petition to add the disorder to Ohio’s list of qualifying conditions.

A clinical sexologist, Mulvehill points to research stretching back to the 1970s that’s since been supported by more recent studies indicating that consuming marijuana before sex can increase the likelihood of orgasm or multiple orgasms, ease orgasm difficulty and boost satisfaction, among other benefits. She also wrote her dissertation for a PhD in clinical sexology about cannabis for the management of FOD, an observational study that found that more than half of female subjects (52 percent) suffered from the disorder.

“Women with FOD have more mental health issues, are on more pharmaceutical medication,” Mulvehill told Marijuana Moment in an interview. “They have more anxiety, depression, PTSD, more sexual abuse histories. It’s not just about pleasure, it’s about a human right.”

“It’s a medical condition that deserves medical treatment,” she added.

Among cannabis users, the awareness that the drug may help achieve female orgasms isn’t new. Current research, for example, indicates that about a third of women who use cannabis do so as a means to improve sex—a portion Mulvehill says has held roughly steady for decades.

“It’s not new information,” Mulvehill said.

What is new is the willingness of government agencies to take up the issue. Mulvehill said that as far as she can tell, Ohio is the first state to seriously consider FOD as a qualifying condition.

Not only that, but Ohio’s meeting earlier this month “was the first time I know of any public government talking about female orgasmic difficulty/disorder,” she said.

Jordan Tishler, a doctor and cannabis specialist who is vice president of the Female Orgasm Research Institute, said advocates sometimes face an uphill battle in trying to draw attention to cannabis’s benefits for FOD.

“One amongst many complicating factors in this field is that it is two taboo subjects,” he told Marijuana Moment. “Americans don’t deal with cannabis very well, as we can see, and they also really don’t deal with sex very well.”

But in recent years, there have been a number of studies “that have really moved this field forward in terms of, you know, well done, reasonable-size studies that are quantitative. Now, the one piece that’s lacking—that Dr. Mulvehill and I are working on—is doing the gold standard, the randomized controlled trial. And we’re having some difficulty because of the nature of cannabis, etc., in terms of getting approved and funded.”

“This has been common knowledge for decades amongst cannabis users,” he said, but “there’s a large group of Americans who could benefit from this and other cannabinoid treatments.”

Regardless of sex or gender, there’s growing evidence that marijuana can improve sexual function. A study last year in the Journal of Cannabis Research found that more than 70 percent of surveyed adults said cannabis before sex increased desire and improved orgasms, while 62.5 percent said cannabis enhanced pleasure while masturbating.

Because past findings indicated women who have sex with men are typically less likely to orgasm than their partners, authors of that study said cannabis “can potentially close the orgasm in equality gap.”

A 2020 study in the journal Sexual Medicine, meanwhile, found that women who used cannabis more often had better sex.

Numerous online surveys have also reported positive associations between marijuana and sex. One study even found a connection between the passage of marijuana laws and increased sexual activity.

Yet another study, however, cautions that more marijuana doesn’t necessarily mean better sex. A literature review published in 2019 found that cannabis’s impact on libido may depend on dosage, with lower amounts of THC correlating with the highest levels of arousal and satisfaction. Most studies showed that marijuana has a positive effect on women’s sexual function, the study found, but too much THC can actually backfire.

“Several studies have evaluated the effects of marijuana on libido, and it seems that changes in desire may be dose dependent,” the review’s authors wrote. “Studies support that lower doses improve desire but higher doses either lower desire or do not affect desire at all.”

Part of what cannabis appears to do to improve orgasms is interact with and disrupt the brain’s default mode network, Tishler said. “For many of these women, who cannot or do not have an orgasm, there’s some complex interplay between the frontal lobe—which is kind of the ‘should have, would have, could have [part of the brain]’—and then the limbic system, which is the ’emotional, fear, bad memories, anger,’ those sorts of things.”

“That’s all moderated through the default mode network,” he continued.

Modulating the default mode network is also central to many psychedelic-assisted therapies. And some research has indicated that those substances, too, may improve sexual pleasure and function.

Last month a paper in the journal Nature Scientific Reports that purported to be the the first scientific study to formally explore the effects of psychedelics on sexual functioning found that drugs such as psilocybin mushrooms and LSD could have beneficial effects on sexual functioning even months after use.

“On the surface, this type of research may seem ‘quirky,’” one of the authors of that study said, “but the psychological aspects of sexual function—including how we think about our own bodies, our attraction to our partners, and our ability to connect to people intimately—are all important to psychological wellbeing in sexually active adults.”

An earlier version of this story incorrectly described Mulvehill’s profession. She is a clinical sexologist, not a clinical psychologist.

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Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.

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Ben Adlin, a senior editor at Marijuana Moment, has been covering cannabis and other drug policy issues professionally since 2011. He was previously a senior news editor at Leafly, an associate editor at the Los Angeles Daily Journal and a Coro Fellow in Public Affairs. He lives in Washington State.


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