The Marijuana Sex Experiment

1975: There was a public hoo-ha when details of Dr. Harris Rubin's planned "marijuana sex study" leaked to the press. As described in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Dec 7, 1975):

Harris Rubin, a university psychologist, has proposed a $121,000, two-year, federally financed investigation. He plans to pay adult male volunteers $20 a session to smoke Government-supplied marijuana and watch erotic films while an electronic device attached to their genitals monitors physical reactions. Rubin hopes to learn whether the drug enhances or inhibits sexual activity.

The New Scientist noted that, despite the moral outrage, the purpose of the study was actually to generate anti-marijuana propaganda by demonstrating that marijuana inhibits sexual response. At least, that was the anticipated result. But the experiment was never conducted.

Dr. Harris Rubin of the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine at Carbondale

Morton Hunt gives more details in his 1999 book The New Know-Nothings:

Both the subject and the methodology of Rubin's study were catnip to the media. Rubin and his colleagues planned to encircle the penis of each volunteer with a strain gauge transducer and then show him erotic pictures; any resultant engorgement of the member would be accurately measured and recorded. By conducting the experiment with two groups, one given either alcohol or marijuana and the other nothing, Rubin would be able to determine whether either drug increased or decreased sexual arousal, and to what extent.

On July 18, the Bloomington, Illinois, Daily Pantagraph, which had somehow become aware of the study, ran an article about it, and from then on Rubin's project was in trouble. Newspapers in Illinois, St. Louis, Washington, Chicago, and many other cities ran stories about what quickly became known as the "sex-pot study" or "pot-sex study," a topic so interesting that they ran follow-up stories about it for many months. Displaying suitable outrage, the Christian Citizens Lobby, Illinois governor Daniel Walker, a federal prosecutor, and various Illinois state officials all denounced the study, calling it "disgusing," "pornography," "obscene," and "garbage," and threatening to take action against Rubin.

This was mere growling and snapping, but Congress had the teeth wherewith to bite. Senators William Proxmire and Thomas Eagleton, Democrats but sexual conservatives, attacked it, as did Representative Robert Michel, the ranking Republican member of the House Appropriations subcommittee. Although the secretary of HEW and the president's National Advisory Council on Drug Abuse defended and supported the project, Michel sought to prevent NIDA from funding the Rubin study by tucking an amendment to that effect in the $12.7 billion-dollar 1976 Supplemental Appropriations Bill for HEW, and Senators Proxmire and Warren Magnuson inserted a similar provision into the Senate's version of the bill. The funding of HEW was so crucial to the national well-being that both houses passed the bill with the anti-Rubin provision intact. President Ford signed it into law on May 31, 1976, keeping the vast Social Security system, NIH, and other essential endeavors going—and cutting off Rubin's minuscule funding and putting an end to his research. Rubin had already gathered the alcohol data and he eventually published his results, but the marijuana study died a-borning.

The Sedalia Democrat - Feb 4, 1976

     Posted By: Alex - Sat Jul 31, 2021
     Category: Drugs | Smoking and Tobacco | Experiments | 1970s | Moral Panics and Public Hysteria

OK, but... can I just point out that rider bills are morally bankrupt, and so is any politician who will have anything to do with them?

And before you ask: yes, even in a cause I agree with.
Posted by Richard Bos on 07/31/21 at 09:57 AM
Enquiring minds want to know the results of his alcohol-sex study. Was the existence of beer goggles proved?
Posted by Virtual in Carnate on 07/31/21 at 10:00 AM
Big Alcohol has your backs.
Posted by John on 07/31/21 at 10:58 AM
Now that marijuana is legal in several US states and Canada, and Portugal has decriminalized all the drugs, could we do the study at last?
Posted by Yudith on 08/01/21 at 06:18 AM
@Yudith - I suspect you'd have a problem finding the null subjects....
Posted by Richard Bos on 08/01/21 at 05:20 PM
Damn you, Sen. Proxmire! You can’t just let a guy get paid $121,000 to smoke weed and watch porn…
Posted by Brian on 08/04/21 at 12:37 PM
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