Nestled in the rolling Italian hillsides lies the home of the greatest emergence of art known to mankind: Florence. In the 15th century, the town brought us the likes of Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Raphael, Titian, Donatello…and that’s just the starting lineup. Historians, sociologists, psychologists and even geologists have tried to understand how and why a renaissance happened in this tiny town.
I say this renaissance because there have been multiple, despite historians forgoing the official title. The musical renaissance in 17th century Vienna, the philosophical renaissance of 15th century Edinburgh, the technological renaissance in Silicon Valley; all sudden bursts of profound creativity, defining their fields for centuries to come.
Examining the commonalities in past cultural epicenters, it would appear we are at the forefront of a cannabis renaissance in places such as Denver, Portland, Seattle—even Anchorage. Creativity steams from every corner in legalized states. The Cannabis Renaissance is upon us, and here’s why:
Nothing greases up the gears of creativity quite like cold, hard cash—just watch any starving artist swell with inspiration at the promise of a commission. It was no different in Renaissance Florence. The florin ruled, and the Medici clan had boatloads of florins.
The patriarch of the Medici family, Cosimo de’ Medici, was a renaissance hybrid of Elon Musk, Bill Gates and Simon Cowell. He expensed enormous sums of money to countless artists. Not for his own personal collection, mind you, but for the citizens of Florence; a majority of the works Cosimo commissioned were to be displayed for the public.
With this rapid availability of art, the average Florentine citizen soon became an expert connoisseur. The citizens no longer demanded art, they demanded great art. That, in turn, meant the Medici family demanded great art. The success (and income) of every artist was hinged on public approval. Competition became fierce between artists; Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo infamously despised each other. However, that competitive spirit led to a rapid refinement of some of the greatest art, and artists, ever seen.
The same trend can be seen in the cannabis industry. Rapid investment from wealthy patrons ignites creators, growers, artists of the plant to produce work for the approval of the public (consumption). We, as the public, no longer settle for dime-bag grass—we demand great cannabis. Competition grows more fierce every day. The only question that remains: who is going to paint the Cannabis Sistine Chapel?
Money does a great job spurring bursts of creativity, but it doesn’t work alone. Think of the graveyard of startups that line the I-5 along Silicon Valley. Simon Sinek, in his book Start With Why, describes the tendency of a consumer base to “not buy what you make, but buy why you make it.” That why principle, as Sinek calls it, is another reason for the success of art in 15th century Florence.
A vast majority of citizens in Renaissance Florence were illiterate. This was a point of contention for The Church, which relied on the text of The Bible to pass along its teachings. The Church also contributed massive amounts of money in the name of art, not for pleasure, but for propaganda.
Many of the most famous works of art produced during that time (The Sistine Chapel, for instance) were commissioned by The Church to provide imagery for the word of God. This purposeful push by The Church, along with their deep pockets, fueled another level of artistic genius in Florence.
Again, this principal can be seen in today’s cannabis industry. Cannabis business owners across the country will say that, while producing a good product is important, education of the public is at the forefront of their mission.
There is a lot of money slushing to and fro in the industry, but with an underlying, unified purpose of education, as well. The money provides the means, and the vision provides purpose. Combining the two creates a potent avenue for creativity.
Money and purpose provide the atmosphere for creativity to thrive. However, the biggest boost to creativity is actually something typically associated with stifling it: constraints. The idea that the less options you have, the more creative you become goes against our image of the free-spirited, free-thinking artist, but it holds true.
A study conducted by The University of Amsterdam’s Department of Social Psychology determined that tough obstacles can prompt people to expand their thinking, look at the “big picture” or true end goal and make connections (out of necessity) that typically wouldn’t be considered.
In Florence, artists weighted the constraints of their patrons’ wills (especially The Church), the perception of the citizens of Florence, the critic of their own peers, as well as their own artistic aspirations. All that stress snowballed into the greatest flourishing of art in human history. Think of that next time you have a tight deadline.
Marijuana laws and regulations are not going to get any laxer in the coming years. The kinks will be worked out, and there will undoubtedly be overreaches and missteps on both sides. However, this stream of new laws and regulations only spurs innovation within the industry, all at a completely unparalleled rate.
Like a plant bending and twisting to find sunlight, the marijuana industry is still finding a place to grow and thrive. Until then, it’s important to remember that creativity is never comfortable.