Cannabis and Consent

What is Consent?

To navigate consent when using cannabis, we first need to understand the nuances of consent and what it entails. Therefore, there are a few definitions that should be recognized: 

  • Sexual consent: one’s voluntary, sober, and conscious willingness to engage in a particular sexual behavior with a particular person within a particular context. This internal willingness can depend on a constellation of feelings: physical response, safety/comfort, arousal, readiness, and agreement/want.
  • Active consent: when you and/or the person you are engaging in sexual activity with says or does something that indicates their willingness.
  • Verbal consent: when you and/or the person you are engaging in sexual activity with directly agrees to sexual activity with words and verbal cues. (e.g., “yes”, “of course”, “Is this okay?”
  • Nonverbal consent: when you and/or the person you are engaging in sexual activity with agrees to sexual activity through body language. (e.g., nodding, touching, etc.)

Consent is not “I don’t know,” “Not now” or silence. These responses do not mean “yes,” and a “yes” for one activity does not mean “yes” for another activity. Consent can also be revoked at any time, so if you’re unsure, the simplest way to know if you have consent is to ASK:

  • Ask your partner
  • Speak up
  • Know what’s happening

Remember, consent is absolutely mandatory.

**For more information on what consent means, visit the Love Lab’s Sexcessful Communication page. 


How Cannabis Can Affect the Body During Sexual Activity 

  • Cannabis-use can potentially lead to a loss of motor skills, loss of consciousness, and mental confusion. 
  • Increases risk of engaging in risky sexual behaviors, such as, condomless sex. 
  • Increases risk of cognitive impairment, which decreases one’s chances of engaging in sexual consent. 


Main Takeaways  

  • Communication regarding sexual activity needs to occur continuously both before and during cannabis use. 
  • While individuals may be more willing to use substances, like cannabis to increase sexual pleasure, this perceived benefit can potentially impede active consent communication. However, everyone reacts to cannabis differently. Studies that have found that cannabis can diminish one’s internal experiences and pleasure with sexual activity does not apply to everyone. 



Willis, M., Marcantonio, T. L., & Jozkowski, K. N. (2021). Internal and external sexual consent during events that involved alcohol, cannabis, or both. Sexual Health (Online), 18(3), 260-268.

Hayaki, J., Anderson, B. J., & Stein, M. D. (2018). Dual use of alcohol and marijuana and condomless sex in young adult men and women: A within-subject day-level analysis. The American journal on addictions, 10.1111/ajad.12738. Advance online publication.