The writer, Norman Mailer, said that marijuana is “divine” for providing one with new associations and “extraordinary thoughts.” (6) His 1948 book, The Naked and The Dead, is regarded as one of the best novels of the 20th century.
When asked if drugs aided his creativity Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys replied, “Very much so, yeah. Marijuana helped me write Pet Sounds.” (4) Pet Sounds was ranked by Rolling Stone magazine as the second greatest album of all time. (2)
The author, Tom Robbins, has said:
The plant genies don’t manufacture imagination, nor do they market wonder and beauty – but they force us out of context so dramatically and so meditatively that we gawk in amazement at the ubiquitous everyday wonders that we are culturally disposed to overlook, and they teach us invaluable lessons about fluidity, relativity, flexibility, and paradox. Such an increase in awareness, if skillfully applied, can lift a disciplined, adventurous artist permanently out of reach of the faded jaws of mediocrity. (11)
This is echoed by the musician Richard Ashcroft of The Verve:
Anything that can take you to beyond where you naturally are when you wake up in the morning can have some creative effect, can have some way of spinning the way you look on life …. I smoke the weed every day, and to me, that is the thing I’ve found is best for making music. (3)
Dr. Andrew Weil wrote that many of the ideas in his best-selling book, The Natural Mind (1972), came to him when he was high on marijuana. (12)
The astronomer and author, Carl Sagan, attributed numerous insights to marijuana and has defended this inspiration from those who call it illusory. (5) To read his entire treatise on the cerebral benefits of marijuana use go to this link.
The psychologist, Susan Blackmore, has written, “I can honestly say that without cannabis, most of my scientific research would never have been done and most of my books on psychology and evolution would not have been written.” (1)
One way in which creativity can be described is the ability to find new and novel connections between concepts. In scientific terms the ability to find connections between words is called semantic priming. A 2010 study published in Psychiatry Research found that the use of marijuana induces a state of hyper-priming. (9) When presented with an activation word, subjects reacted faster to distantly-related words when high than when sober. (For a neuroscience journalist’s take on this study go here.) The flow of loose associations promoted by marijuana is a real phenomenon.
Credit goes to Jason Silva for introducing me to this study. His article on marijuana’s “butterfly effect” on thought can be found here.
Addendum (June 25, 2012) – Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, told government investigators during a background check in 1988, “The best way I would describe the effect of the marijuana and the hashish is that it would make me relaxed and creative.” (13)
1. Susan Blackmore, “I Take Illegal Drugs for Inspiration,” Daily Telegraph, 21 May 2005. LINK
2. Pat Blashill, et al., “500 Greatest Albums of All Time,” RollingStone.com, 2003. LINK
3. “Captain Beaky and His Bands,” Q, Feb. 2001, p. 53.
4. Jian Ghomeshi, “Brian Wilson Talks About Drug Use on QTV,” Q with Jian Ghomeshi, 20 May 2011. LINK
5. Lester Grinspoon, Marihuana Reconsidered (1971).
6. Russ Kick, Disinformation Book of Lists (2004), p. 28.
7. Jonah Lehrer, “Marijuana and Divergent Thinking,” The Frontal Cortex, 10 Mar. 2010. LINK
8. John Luersson, “Alanis Morissette Credits Marijuana for Creativity,” Spinner.com, 1 Dec. 2009. LINK
9. C.J. Morgan, et al., “Hyper-Priming in Cannabis Users,” Psychiatry Research, 30 Apr. 2010. LINK
10. “Pot Smoking ‘Saved’ Kevin Smith,” NYPost.com, 5 Oct. 2009. LINK
11. Jacob Sullum, Saying Yes (2003), p. 157.
12. Andrew Weil, The Natural Mind (1998), p. 196.
13. Kim Zetter, “Steve Jobs’ Pentagon File: Blackmail Fears, Youthful Arrest and LSD Cubes,” Wired.com, 11 June 2012. LINK