Does smoking weed make people creative, or do creative people just smoke weed? Well, it’s a little of both.
Dr. Alice Weaver Flaherty is a Neurologist at Massachusetts General Hospital and a Professor at Harvard Medical School. She specializes in deep brain stimulation, as well as the brain’s relationship with creativity. After extensive research into whether or not cannabis and creativity are connected, Dr. Flaherty found the answer in the frontal lobe of the brain. Highly creative people, it turns out, have more activity in the frontal lobe than those with lower creative abilities. Marijuana use can also stimulate that area of the brain, leading neuroscientists to draw a connection between cannabis and creative output.
Another study, published by the scientific journal Consciousness and Cognition, used what is called the “Big 5” model of personality to measure traits, looking at neuroticism, openness, conscientiousness, extraversion and agreeableness in participants. They asked a group of 979 undergraduate students to self-report their own levels of creativity, and also objectively measured creativity among the students using exams featuring divergent thinking (coming up with many solutions to a problem) and convergent thinking (determining a single correct answer). Cannabis users outperformed non-users on the convergent thinking test, which led researchers to the conclusion that those who use cannabis simply hold the “openness to experience” personality trait that causes them to excel creatively; cannabis didn’t make them creative.
Could non-cannabis users, then, activate the creative part of their brain by smoking a little ganja? Or were open-minded cannabis users always destined to be more creative, and this openness led them to try cannabis in the first place?
The world may never know. Dr. Flaherty was definitely right about one thing, though: “When it comes to both creativity itself, and creativity as it pertains to using marijuana, no two people are the same.” Marijuana has certainly had an undeniable influence on music and art. Bob Dylan, for instance, famously introduced The Beatles to cannabis on August 28, 1964, and their sound drastically changed forever.
Whether the chicken came before the egg or creativity came before cannabis, I think we can all agree much of our world has been shaped by the minds of marijuana users:
“I think people need to be educated to the fact that marijuana is not a drug. Marijuana is an herb and a flower. God put it here. If He put it here and He wants it to grow, what gives the government the right to say that God is wrong?"
“Herb is the healing of a nation . . . ”
“The best way I would describe the effect of the marijuana and the hashish is that it would make me relaxed and creative.”
“When I was a kid, I inhaled. That was the point.”