Sex, marijuana and baby booms

J Health Econ. 2020 Mar:70:102283. doi: 10.1016/j.jhealeco.2019.102283. Epub 2019 Dec 28.


We study the behavioral changes caused by marijuana use on sexual activity, contraception, and birth counts by applying a differences-in-differences approach that exploits the variation in timing of the introduction of medical marijuana laws (MMLs) among states. We find that MMLs cause an increase in sexual activity, a reduction in contraceptive use conditional on having sex, and an increase in number of births. There is also suggestive evidence on temporary increases in the state-year gonorrhea rate. These changes may be attributed to behavioral responses including increased attention to the immediate hedonic effects of sexual contact, increased sexual frequency, as well as delayed discounting and ignoring the future costs associated with sex. Our findings on births suggest that behavioral factors can counteract the physiological changes from marijuana use that tend to decrease fertility. Our findings are robust to a broad set of tests.

Keywords: Behavior; Contraceptive use; Fertility; Marijuana laws; Sexual activity.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Birth Rate / trends
  • Contraception
  • Databases, Factual
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Marijuana Smoking*
  • Middle Aged
  • Population Growth*
  • Sexual Behavior*
  • Young Adult