Cannabis And Creativity: Clearing The Smokescreen

We’ve all heard it before: “When I’m high, I’m more creative.” But what does that really mean?

Many people express that using herb enhances their creativity, but they rarely elaborate further. My experience has been that it’s an unwritten rule amongst us who use the plant—if it works for whatever it is you got, you should use it. We don’t really question each other’s reasons for smoking, although we may discuss what we all love about the effects.

That’s why I wanted to dive deep into this perceived relationship between cannabis and creativity. What does it really mean for someone when they smoke? Is their creativity somehow “enhanced?” Is this a real effect, or just something we’ve come to accept?

Local Seattle graffiti artist, Tony aka Adrenalyn, once thought that smoking before painting a mural improved his ability to craft a polished piece. When asked if he was familiar with the opinion that cannabis can enhance creativity, he replied, “Most definitely, and I’ll tell you straight up that it is not true. I’ve done pieces high and sober, I noticed my output was the same.” Throughout the interview, Tony expressed that he felt artists should master their craft before using weed to be more creative. “A lot of artists might be reading this, and I want them to know that you don’t need weed to be creative. It’s fun when you’re doing (your art), but from a competitor, always think about the craft first.”

Though I appreciated his perspective, I still wanted to know more. There are some artists who feel they need to be high to be their most creative selves. I wanted to get insight into what barriers existed, if any, between sober states of mind and creativity.

When I asked Seattle-based rapper and spoken word artist, Milu Yewondwossen, why he gets high before creating, he had an interesting response, “Every time I want to write something new, I smoke and it helps my mind wander and get creative. I want to jump from one subject to another and make new connections between my thoughts.”

While Tony was confident that the key to creativity was mastering one’s craft, Milu was intentionally using the psychoactive ingredients in cannabis to achieve a state of mind he described as “wandering” and even “manic.” I imagine that our everyday thoughts usually occur within the boundaries of what we see in front of us. Milu however, identified that his mind did not follow the same patterns as when he was working or running errands. He finds himself able to see things differently and make connections between ideas that he may find illogical when sober.

My final interviewee, Bobbin, local b-boy and designer, had more to say about how cannabis sparks his creativity. “I see the world differently when I’m high. Even when I do my same routine, I pick up on subtle differences. Moderation is key, and when I smoke I specifically try to gather new ideas and look at things from different perspectives,” he shared.

Bobbin’s opinion on how herb affects his creative process seemed to mirror that of Milu’s, although he said something specific about how he keeps himself accountable when creating new designs or dancing. “I smoke with a mission, and I hold myself to taking my new ideas and refining them. I might think of a million things, but if you don’t take those ideas and make them into something, you aren’t actually creating.”

The relationship between cannabis and creativity still isn’t perfectly clear, but maybe a little less hazy. Smoking might help generate new ideas, but that does not negate the importance of mastering a craft. If we utilize being high to think of new ideas, we must also be disciplined enough to hone and refine those ideas into something tangible–otherwise, as Bobbin said, “you aren’t actually creating.”

“I smoke with a mission, and I hold myself to taking my new ideas and refining them. I might think of a million things, but if you don’t take those ideas and make them into something, you aren’t actually creating.” -Bobbin

Alex Juliano

Born and raised in Seattle, WA, Alex Juliano is a writer, instructional designer, educational consultant, teacher, web developer, and professional breakdancer. Aside from his endeavors in writing, Alex has innovated training solutions for a variety of industries, including performing arts, telecommunications, technology, public education, retail, aerospace manufacturing, and CAD/CAM software. 

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