Top tracks to pair with pot, track one: Free bird
When describing a memorable cannabis sesh, no matter how long it’s been, one of the first things people often remember is what music was playing. Congruently, cannabis consumption can often play a role when having an incredible experience at a live concert or loving a new album on first listen.
There is an intangible connection between music and cannabis that deepens the potential perception of each. This connection has yet to be researched, though scholars and stoners have theories. Outside of science, cannabis enthusiasts often agree that the beauty of music and other art is amplified after smoking a little weed.
Cannabis consumption can increase your desire to listen to music and enhance sound perception while altering your perception of time. One study also suggests that cannabis without cannabidiol (CBD) dampens regions of the brain. These regions are associated with auditory processing, memory encoding and retrieval, and fear and sadness.
The same study found that cannabis without THC also dampened the right ventral striatum, which plays a role in tracking the subjective value of stimuli and signaling reward, among other things. The active dampening of these functions could result in someone having a prolific experience with a piece of music after lighting up.
The neurological phenomenon described above reminds me of experiencing a well-known song through an entirely new lens. Enter: “Free bird.” We know it’s a bit cliche and perhaps silly to share a profound stoned experience with the Lynyrd Skynyrd 9-minute classic rock tune–but perhaps that’s the power of pot.
I’d heard “Free bird” dozens if not hundreds of times while listening to the classic rock station sitting in the bucket seat of my dad’s truck. Every kid will remember a song on the radio that goes on for an eternity, but it wasn’t anything special to me amid the familiar stream of Zeppelin and the Eagles.
It wasn’t until years later when I was enjoying a post-sesh walk around Lake Merced in South San Francisco with a friend from college that I gained a new appreciation for the song. The lake was a short distance from our dorms but off-campus enough to avoid ire from the university. We would walk over, pass a bowl in the glass spoon pipe we bought together on Haight Street, and share one earbud each while one of our iPods shuffled.
One day, “Free bird” came on. We walked arm in arm perfectly in pace with one another as those legendary gospel organs met that entrancing guitar riff, and the drums eloquently marked the time that we could no longer track. Losing ourselves in the organic buildup of the drums, we continued walking until that unforgettable guitar solo trill. At that moment, we both just looked over at one another with a cheeky smile–knowing we were experiencing the mystic awe of music together.
That moment is a capsule of a specific feeling that I continue to find by experiencing art through the lens of cannabis. Cannabis set us up to journey together, but the music put us on the same wavelength. I couldn’t tell you the science, but I know that at that moment, we felt the same reverence for human life.
What makes this experience even more beautiful is that I’m not alone; many cannabis enthusiasts have memories in which the plant was a catalyst that showed them just how beautiful it is to be alive, and that’s a gift in itself. Of course, not every cannabis experience is profound, and not every playlist has the group in awe post-sesh– but with the correct set and setting, experiencing beauty with cannabis and music is possible.