One of the most convoluted legal and social issues is indeed, sexual consent. Public opinion inevitably spurs the debate as to which party is the true victim and no matter which way it goes, one side is always going to leave pissed. The question of consent normally hinges upon the basis of these factors: age, if the act was committed forcibly, if coercion or threats were used, and/or whether or not mind-altering substances were involved. As weed becomes legalized across the country, and marijuana research slowly but surely catches up with demand, it is bound to become entangled with the debate over whether consent can be granted while someone is high.
Weed vs. alcohol
Marijuana’s use as an aphrodisiac is not only highly recommended, but it is promoted as a healthy way to increase libido, drop inhibitions and heighten intimacy (this is especially true for women).
Anyone who has used both cannabis and alcohol can tell you that the impairment effects are quite different. Unlike alcohol use, which is often a factor in sexual assault cases, cannabis often makes one hyper-aware, paranoid and more sensitive to their sensory-based experiences.
Rachel K. Gillette, a partner at a Colorado law firm who also represents the state’s cannabis industry told VICE,
We know [consent] is an issue with alcohol, and cannabis affects people in a very different way than alcohol does. It’s harder to get someone to a degree of impairment with cannabis than with other substances, but I don’t want to rule out the possibility that you could become too incapacitated to give consent just from cannabis.
But we’re not out of the woods yet
The truth is, intoxicated people willingly consent to sex all the time. But the problem arises when someone is rendered incapable of making such a decision. Founder of New York City law firm, Carrie Goldberg Esq. told VICE,
The issue is not so much what the substance is, but whether the quantity or impact is such that it can make a person mentally incapacitated or physically helpless.
Surely, this could occur if someone is a novice to weed and has no tolerance, ingests too much, has been given cannabis that is laced with something else, or has been given a cannabis-infused product unknowingly.
Cases of weed used as a rape drug are few and far between, however, sex trafficking victims often report that their handlers gave it to them along with harder drugs to lower their defenses or as a way to cope.
Undoubtedly, a determined rapist could use any substance to impact a victim’s ability to say no; even weed. Being high, drunk or otherwise intoxicated doesn’t give anyone the right to victimize you, and while rapes due to cannabis use appear to be rare, knowing your limits can at least help to mitigate the possibility of being taken advantage of due to pot use.
Becoming too high to function can put anyone at risk, regardless of the substance.