California. The Golden State. The Wild West. A place of unique firsts: The Frisbee, TV and radio broadcasts, the enclosed mall, the seedless watermelon, the vacuum tube, freeway gas stations, supermarkets and Barbie. Not bad eh?
In 1996, California was also the first state to legalize medical pot, sparking a trend that now includes 25 other states. Five years ago, Colorado and Washington state became the first to legalize recreational cannabis, making Seattle and Denver the new Amsterdam. In fact, the gange is the most widely used semi-legal recreational drug in the Western world with 13.7% of Americans toking regularly. And most doobee users are males.
Two Male Brains
Now this could be good for the world in many ways, but not so good in others. The active component of marijuana is Δ9-tetrahydrocannabiol (THC), which has receptors in both the brain and the testis, both key male behavior centers. We know a lot about how pot affects the brain but very little about its influence on the nether regions. My sense is that effect of pot on male fertility is likely to put other environmental toxins, including tobacco, to shame.
Sperm Toke Too
Why so harsh on the diggy? Well, for one, sperm themselves have receptors for the endocannabinoids found in pot. And not unlike pot induced mood alternations, sperm from weed users also behave abnormally compared with sperm from men with confirmed fertility, says a lab study from the University of Buffalo. Sperm exposed to high levels of THC show changes in the sperm enzyme cap, called the acrosome. And linked to this is a reduction in the normal vigorous swimming patterns such that sperm sprint too early and then “burn out” quicker, leading to a reduced ability to reach the egg for proper fertilization. Guys, the path sperm take through the woman’s body is damn hard enough, but making them act silly ain’t gonna help things at all!
So marijuana’s not good for sperm in a dish, but what about the real world? Several population studies also looked at the gange. In a Danish study of 1,215 men burning the bud more than once per week was associated with a 28% lower sperm concentration. Combining weed with other recreational drugs reduced the sperm concentration by 52%. That’s half the sperm count for weed wackers. Another study demonstrated that regular doobee use is associated with poor sperm shape, which is also not good for fertility.
What’s even worse is that the reversibility of pot’s effect on sperm may be drawn out since THC is fat soluble and can hang around in the body for as long as a month after fairly regular use. Sounds a lot like poison to me.
And, since it’s really the THC that buggers things up, the newest craze of edible pot will probably end up having an even larger impact on fertility than toking. Although smoking marijuana gets THC into the body much faster and at higher concentrations, it remains there much longer after eating it. Anyone who’s been there knows that unlike smoked weed, the effects of which are almost instantaneous, edibles take up to an hour to take hold. Get impatient, eat a little more, and you find yourself couch frozen for hours.
Men, think before you puff and pass, if you’d like your sperm to stay top brass.