Here’s the thing: When you’re writing about pot-infused products aimed at making sex more fun, there’s going to be nervous laughter and possibly blushing. There will be awkward pauses, and maybe a few too many “ums,” as the mind searches for the right words.
Or maybe that was just me.
During the past year or so, sensual oils have materialized on Oregon’s marijuana dispensary shelves, adding to the surprising ways pot is marketed. Entrepreneurs have come up with pot treats to ease your aging pet’s arthritis, tinctures to slip into your morning tea and balms that offer a buzz while soothing chapped lips.
It was only a matter of time before someone came up with a way to put pot to an especially intimate use.
These products, which typically include coconut or almond oil, essential oils and a potent dose of cannabis, are typically aimed at women who are told to apply the oil before sex and, well, enjoy.
Trista Okel says people probably won’t get high using her Portland company’s Empower 4Play oil. They may just feel a different sort of sensation.
“It’s not numbing,” she said. “It’s not like that. It’s slightly tingly and warm.”
The product tagline: “Put it where you please.”
But be advised: These oils can degrade latex condoms.
And that’s a worry for people trying to protect themselves from sexually transmitted diseases, said Kim Jones, a professor of nursing at Oregon Health & Science University and a nurse practitioner. What’s more, there’s no research to support their safety, she said.
“You are putting these products in an intimate part of your body,” she said. “If you are willing to try something that has no science to back it up – these products would be in that realm.”
Data out of Colorado and Washington show that topical products, like salves, lotions, bath salts and personal lubricants, make up less than 1 percent of sales, according to BDS Analytics, a Colorado-based firm that tracks cannabis sales and market data. Personal lubricants and oils make up a sliver of the tiny topical market.
Claire Kaufmann, a regional director for BDS Analytics, said topical products and others like marijuana-infused edibles still need to address key issues like consistency and efficacy before they take off with consumers.
“Novelty products will always have a place in cannabis, whether or not that particular market category will see aggressive growth, only time will tell,” she said. “It will come down to whether these products consistently deliver for the consumer.”
As with many aspects of marijuana, the evidence on effectiveness of pot-infused sensual oils is anecdotal. Some consumers say the products made a good experience better. Others said they didn’t add much.
Emma Chasen, a budtender at Farma on Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard, put it this way:
“It felt really good, but it usually feels good. I honestly can’t say the cannabis made it so amazing.”
Angela Bacca, a Portland writer and editor, said she was disappointed at first. And then one product delivered.
“It definitely heightened the sensation,” said Bacca, who wrote about her experience in a blog post she called “How I finally got my vagina high” for a marijuana culture site called Merry Jane. “For a lot of women, it’s hard to focus on things. It’s easy to get distracted. When you are that much aware of the feeling, it’s hard to get distracted.
“It definitely improved sex,” she said.
Others said they prefer cannabis oils over drugstore lubricants not because they experienced a difference but because the ingredients were familiar.
“For me, it makes it more appealing if it’s safe for me to eat,” said Zoe Wilder, a Portland writer and former budtender. “Then I know it’s safe for me to put in my sensitive areas.”
Sally Alworth, an owner of Portland-based Luminous Botanicals, heard from consumers who were using her medicinally focused cannabis oil for sex. Intrigued, Alworth and her business partner conducted their own experiments.
“Individually, with our own partners, we gave it a try, and we both had great reactions to it,” she said.
So they decided to market a separate product as a sensual oil.
“It’s packaged a little differently,” she said. “It has a different essential oil blend to make it feel more bedroom-oriented.”
At first, Adrian Brown, a longtime marijuana enthusiast, was skeptical. Then he gave the products a try.
Now, he’s a fan.
“I can get into further detail if you need,” he offered generously.
Nah, we’re good.
— Noelle Crombie