Cannabis and Creativity

Photo: Eddy Klaus

Photo: Eddy Klaus

Long before cannabis hit mainstream culture, well-known artists, poets and writers like Salvador Dali, William Shakespeare and Carl Sagan used marijuana to elevate creativity. Fast forward to mainstream celebrity culture, artists like Lady Gaga, Snoop Dogg and Rihanna regularly mention weed as an active agent in their creative process. While the science linking marijuana to creativity is still under extensive research, there are numerous frontal lobe studies linking cannabis to creative genius.

Not limited to the legends of the past, contemporary artists, celebrities and leaders are driving the crusade for creative liberties with the aid of marijuana. Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Seth Rogen are some of the bright-eyed individuals have openly promoted cannabis to empower creative consciousness. In an interview with LA Weekly, Rick Steves argues, “Marijuana refreshes your perspective and allows you to see things in a different way. It’s humbled me about my ability to really appreciate things.” Down to the science, recent research suggests that marijuana use can boost activity in the frontal lobe, elevating creative drive and divergent thinking in its users.

Well-known for his neurological studies in decision making, Psychologist Joy Paul Guilford distinguishes between convergent and divergent thinking: While convergent thinking offers a single solution to a problem, marijuana is more commonly linked to divergent thinking; a process in which an individual can offer multiple solutions to solve a problem. Divergent thinking is an essential method to connect previously unconnected ideas – further enabling mental capacity to consider solutions outside the obvious.

Building on extensive research exploring marijuana and cerebral blood flow (CBF) in the frontal cortex, cannabis is a proven catalyst for creativity. Studies show that after cannabis consumption, blood rushes to the frontal area of the brain. With excess blood flow feeding neurons with glucose and oxygen in the blood, higher levels of creative stimulation were seen in participants with higher CBF levels (Matthew and Wilson, 1992).

A comparative creativity study in 2007 explains further, “When evaluating differences in brain cerebral blood flow (CBF) between highly creative individuals during the performance of activities from the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking, verbal form, individuals with a high creative performance showed greater CBF activity in both, right and left brain hemispheres at the same time. (Chávez-Eakle, Graff-Guerrero, García-Reyna, Vaugier, & Cruz-Fuentes, 2007)”.

With so many studies suggesting the positive impact of cannabis on creative stimulation, it's no surprise that many creative people are smoking marijuana. Looking ahead to the legalization of marijuana, cannabis continues to be at the forefront of divergent thinking; stimulating the minds and bodies of the contemporary world to innovate, inspire and think outside of the box.