The Myths of Marijuana and Creativity
By Jed Sanders
There are many myths today that surround cannabis. 10 years ago, the Creativity Research Journal published an article called â€œEffects of Marijuana Use on Divergent Thinking.â€ Research was conducted by Bourassa M. and Vaugeois P. on 120 participants (60 regular users and 60 novice users of cannabis). Three experimental conditions with THC were used: with marijuana, without marijuana, and with a placebo. Their studies and results concluded that â€œthe use of marijuana had no positive effects on divergent thinking (creativity) in novice users and reduced it in regular users.â€
This particular study has almost become the word of law and is referenced most by many educational institutions in their basic psychology courses. Since the article was published, there has been much debate amongst scholars on the validity of the claim. One of the biggest problems with conducting any kind of thorough research on marijuana is that the cannabis plant contains over 60 different chemicals (cannabinoids). THC and CBD are becoming the most well-known, as more research targeted them specifically. There are still a lot of questions and mysteries as scientists continue to discover new cannabinoids. Certain strains will affect one differently depending on the levels of cannabinoids that are present. The manner in which the plant is grown and harvested can also play a role in determining these levels.
In addition, an individualâ€™s biochemistry and personality can cause the impact of cannabis to vary. These variables along with uneven basis for testing, such as sample size and conditions, can make it nearly impossible to obtain accurate results, not to mention that many of the tests are now severely outdated. This may be why there have been so many contradictory studies done to date. â€œUndergraduate Marijuana and Drug Use as Related to Openness to Experience,â€ published by Psychiatric Quarterly, showed that increased usage of marijuana also increased creativity and â€œadventuresomeness.â€ These results were formed from 316 participants, while another study published by the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease had only 16 participants and showed results that were quite the opposite of the Psychiatric Quarterly.
Creativity is defined as â€œthe ability to produce something new through imaginative skill, whether a new solution to a problem, a new method or device, or a new artistic object or form.â€ In lament terms, imagine that the creative thought process is a swarm of ideas that are hovering in a circle above your head. As you jump up to catch those ideas and begin compiling them in a collection, they solidify and the creative process is born.
When one smokes or ingests cannabis, those ideas multiply above your head. The more you ingest, the more those ideas start to swarm faster, becoming more difficult to collect and put together. Often, artists have reported â€œa swarm of ideas overwhelming themâ€ and write down their thoughts in order to not lose them when they are no longer high. If one ingests or inhales an exceeding level of cannabis, there is no question that it will work against them. On the same note, marijuana can be used as an excellent stimulus to connect ideas together and to focus on creative thought. When those ideas are not circling, it might help getting a few of them started or, perhaps, introducing new ones by lighting up. The real key is in moderation.
By all means, marijuana is not the â€œwonder drugâ€ that will turn you into some great artist, if one is looking for that. There is a good reason why dispensaries label their products with a warning to â€œnot drive or operate heavy equipment/machinery while under this medication.â€ It should be taken seriously. If an artist paints just for the sake of getting high and becomes so careless with their artwork as to disregard any direction or thought, it would prove counterproductive. They should prepare themselves to not be taken seriously. It is no different from a musician getting so intoxicated that they canâ€™t perform on stage. The artist, in a similar respect, is cheating their audience.
Today, visual artists and musicians face a double standard. The list of known cannabis users among musicians is an endless one, not to mention the bands that seem to exist solely to cover the topic. It was recently reported that Lady Gaga indulges when she writes for creative purposes. While it seems socially acceptable for a musician to talk about consuming cannabis, and how it helps them with their creative process and performance, most painters and visual artists do not share that same luxury of openness on the topic. It is much more taboo. Mainly in part, much of the art community relies on public funding and is non-profit, versus the music industry, which is supported mainly by the general buying public. This might be why, when searching for proof on marijuana use by visual artists, you can find more about Pablo Picassoâ€™s use of ceramics in his work than actual pot; and one of the only clues with Salvador Dali is his quote â€œeveryone should eat hashish, but once,â€ which hardly qualifies as any sort of confession on his part.
It doesnâ€™t help either that many myths surround cannabis as being the gateway drug. If an artist chooses to speak about their midnight toking, they are often, more times than not, thrown into the underground art subculture world. Of course, if you are an artist who wants to be in the subculture, that might work well for you. If not, this can pose a serious problem.
Artists can also possess the fear that their future buyers might think they are going to become crazed-out crack-heads when the pot doesnâ€™t do it for them anymore. This is a ridiculous myth. When marijuana is ingested or inhaled into the system, the chemicals attach themselves to receptors in the brain, which provides a pleasurable experience. Those same receptors react when consuming chocolate or having sex, for 99% of us. The studies conducted in which marijuana is believed to be the gateway drug are based on the idea that the sensors will become numb after time when the high from the cannabis is no longer enough for the individual. If you apply that same theory to the consumption of chocolate, coffee, sex, or of anything that gives us pleasure for that matter, this becomes a frightening theory. It would be disturbing to think of some of us becoming heroin junkies because we canâ€™t get our â€œchocolate fix.â€
The key to a healthy lifestyle is balance. All kinds of artists have been using cannabis for centuries to reach heightened levels of enlightenment with their creative process. To say that marijuana does not help one with creativity is a silly claim.
If you take care of yourself and donâ€™t overdo it, youâ€™ll be just fine. Educate yourself about different strains and what works best for you. If marijuana works for you creatively, then go for it. If it doesnâ€™t, donâ€™t do it. It just doesnâ€™t get any simpler than that.
This month we salute a few artists who donâ€™t care about â€œbreaking the rulesâ€ and love to paint the plant we love whilst under the influence.
Go check out their websites. Go visit them. Buy some of their artwork to decorate your green room! Impress friends and family.