For Steven Bisson, an ideal date night consists of a quiet night at home, a bag of Doritos and some cannabis to set the mood.
Bisson, a 50-year-old medical marijuana user in Toronto, said his partner had little exposure to cannabis when they first met two years ago. His romantic interest seemed keen to experiment, but initially harboured hesitations about dabbling in drugs.
It was an issue that had doomed several of Bisson's past relationships. He said he had broken up with partners, and been dumped himself, over what he perceived to be a lack of tolerance regarding his cannabis use - a quality he deems essential in a potential mate.
“I'm going to smoke regardless,” he said. “If my partner has a problem with it, then that won't be my partner.”
In his current relationship, however, Bisson said sparking up with his significant other on weekends brought them closer together - in more ways than one.
“You can be a little bit more open, and that could lead to a better relationship,” said Bisson. “The sex, he loves. Without going into any detail, he says sex is so much better on marijuana than without it.”
As legalization looms on Oct. 17, experts say cannabis compatibility may take on a larger role in the world of romance, as singles navigate the hazy rules of a marijuana-infused courtship and couples consider shaking up their routine with a new substance.
Florida-based cannabis-friendly social networking app High There!, which has been touted as the “Tinder for tokers,” is looking to expand its digital footprint in Canada to cater to what founder and CEO Darren Roberts sees as an underserved cohort of eligible 4-20 enthusiasts.
On traditional dating sites, said Roberts, cannabis use is often considered a romantic non-starter - much like how some singles swear off dating cigarette smokers, but compounded by the stigma of decades of prohibition.
High There! offers cannabis users a judgment-free platform where they can make all kinds of connections, be it finding a smoke buddy, that special someone or even a spouse, said Roberts. (Illegal transactions between dealers and buyers, however, are strictly prohibited, he said.)
The app also ensures a “comfort level” among cannabis users by immediately establishing a common interest, he said, as bud buffs trade notes on their consumption habits.
Charlottetown-based couple Vanessa-Lyn Mercier, 28, and Sean Berrigan, 29, credit their shared passion for cannabis with allowing their partnership to flourish in both love and business.
In addition to working together as wedding photographers, Mercier and Berrigan also co-curate the Highloveclub Instagram account, which largely features gauzy glamour shots of the pair smoking up on the rust-stained beaches of P.E.I.
Their relationship wasn't always so picturesque, the couple admits. When they first met four years ago, Mercier said she frowned on Berrigan's use of medicinal cannabis. But about a year into dating, she began facing her own health issues, which were taking a toll on their relationship, so she took her first puff.
Mercier said she went from being couch-ridden with pain to dancing around her living room, and soon got her own medical marijuana prescription. The plant also stoked her creative passions, she said, and she decided to abandon her career in the pharmaceutical industry to follow Berrigan in pursuing photography.
“We both kind of bonded over our love of photography and cannabis. It kind of helped pave the way to where we are now,” said Berrigan. “If cannabis wasn't there ... I don't know if we'd even be together.”
There can also be benefits of bringing bud into the bedroom, said Antuanette Gomez, the Toronto-based founder and CEO of Pleasure Peaks, which offers cannabis products aimed at improving women's sexual health. The potency of cannabis as an aphrodisiac traces back to the millenia-old practice of tantric sex, said Gomez, and she hopes that more Canadian couples discover its pleasures on both a physical and emotional level.
“We all react to cannabis very differently, but when we're sharing that together, it really does heighten your sense of arousal ... and also compassion and closeness, so you can really feel that with your partner,” she said. “I think that mind and body connection is the beautiful part that cannabis really touches.”
But bringing any substance into a relationship comes with romantic risks and benefits, said University of Alberta sociology professor Geraint Osborne, and the potential impacts of cannabis largely overlap with those posed by alcohol.
In a 2005-2006 survey of 41 Canadian cannabis users, Osborne found that bud can lead to mixed success in the bedroom, particularly when appetites turn towards the fridge, sending stoners to sleep with a full stomach. In some cases, said Osborne, it has even been known to cause “performance anxiety,” and studies have linked excessive cannabis use to lower levels of testosterone.
If used responsibly, cannabis can lead to better understanding among couples by helping each partner put themselves in the other's shoes, said Osborne. But when it comes to cannabis abuse, he said the consequences for a relationship can be severe.
“If they are spending all of their time just getting high, and thinking about how to get cannabis to get high, then they're just not focusing on the important parts of their life, including relationships.”
Even without abuse issues, a difference in attitudes towards cannabis can put immense strain on a relationship, said Osborne, and not all couples make it.
Like most aspects of a relationship, said Gomez, a couple's chances of success will come down to their ability to “compromise.”
“When it comes to cannabis, and since we're legalizing it so quickly, there will be a definite shift,” she said. “I believe that relationships, true relationships, will have the communication to figure that out.”
- By Adina Bresge, The Canadian Press