Unexpected muse or up in smoke – does cannabis actually make you creative?

creating on cannabis

Artists working in every medium have dabbled in cannabis. Not all of them, of course. An art crowd rarely snubs a lit joint, though. Even writers who don’t cover the cannabis beat have also been known to partake.

Creative people have long flocked to the plant– and I’m one of them. For almost a decade now, I have been fine-tuning how I use cannabis as a tool that improves my craft, and it’s not as easy as just getting high and putting pen to paper.

The nuance of cannabis and creativity was explored in a study suggesting that the plant may not make someone a bounty of inventive ideas. In fact, the study showed that it just made subjects less critical and more apt to appreciate ideas and concepts despite whether they were objectively “good.”

My ritual for creating on cannabis

This study got me thinking about creating on cannabis and whether I’m fooling myself regarding it being an ideation tool. I condone responsibly harnessing the power of cannabis for creative endeavors. I don’t recommend getting zooted and freestyling without practice.

After years of procrastination on college papers or blog posts because I got too lifted, I figured out my ideal ritual to smoke weed for creativity. For me, the first step is to gain a sober understanding of what you want to create. I’m speaking specifically as a writer, though. I envision the thesis, the morsel I want the reader to take away. Then, I build a structure to get there, outlining key points. I light up once those steps are met and enrich the foundation I’ve constructed.

The research differs from my anecdotal experience

The study on cannabis and creativity consisted of two groups: one who was given cannabis and one who wasn’t. In the first portion of the study, subjects had a brick in front of them. Researchers asked them to think of as many creative uses for the brick as possible. The next test asked the cohort to imagine they were consulting with a local band on how to create revenue and think of as many ideas as possible. An external panel judged how creative the resulting notions were.

The panel didn’t find any difference in the ideas of the cannabis-consuming and abstinent groups, supporting a thesis that cannabis doesn’t make a person more creative. However, the study also found that cannabis did make the subjects happier. This joviality made them more apt to appreciate ideas and consider them excellent compared to the sober cohort. This finding gives me room for pause.

As mentioned, I had to develop a cannabis creativity practice that allowed me to ease into the comfort of the plant while still staying focused on the task at hand. The ritual is somewhat personal. What works for me may not work for you.

But the difference between me and the cohort using cannabis in that study is that I’m working on a craft I’ve been toiling away at for a very long time. I’m not sure the plant would work the same magic if I got stoned and was asked to ideate about a brick.

Does the plant spark creativity?

Is it possible that cannabis only works for creative projects when the consumer is skilled in that medium? For example, a master painter gets stoned. Dexterity to make fine brush strokes or vision for the canvas is not lost, it’s just distorted.

Cannabis could be a creative aid when paired with skill and talent. That said, talent is sometimes innate. Experimenting with cannabis can take the judgment out of trying something new, providing space to find an unknown ability. This study makes a point, but doesn’t negate the artistic nature of marijuana.

The plant won’t make every person more innovative, but the same can be said about many practices. Finding what works for you is the only right way, and for me, it’s a cup of black coffee, a good outline, and some weed.

Cara Wietstock is Senior Content Producer of GreenState.com and has been working in the cannabis space since 2011. She has covered the cannabis business beat for Ganjapreneur and The Spokesman Review. You can find her living in Bellingham, Washington with her husband, son, and a small zoo of pets.