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Cannabis & Creativity—Science Weighs In

Updated: Nov 18, 2023

This article is brought to you by the new Higher Learning LV Core Cannabis course.

 

Cannabis & Creativity

For probably as long as humans have been consuming cannabis and feeling the psychotropic efficacy of powerful cannabinoids such as delta-9 THC, the claim that smoking or eating cannabis increases creativity has existed.


Due to nearly a century of prohibition (the U.S. first made cannabis and hemp illegal at the federal level in 1937), the cannabis culture is rife with misinformation, disinformation, blatant confusion, and plenty of urban legend.

A woman's head, surrounded in smoke.
Does cannabis enhance creativity?

While marijuana consumers may perceive increases in creativity and the ability to work through common challenges such as writer's block or a lack of flow, what does peer-reviewed scientific research say about the issue? Does consuming psychoactive molecules such as CBN, delta-8, delta-10, HHC, and THCV actually boost creativity in such a way that it benefits things like strategic project planning in business?

 

Cannabis & Creativity: 2022 Study

Cannabis & Creativity. A 2022 study entitled "Cannabis Use Does Not Increase Actual Creativity But Biases Evaluations of Creativity" that was published in the APA PsycArticles (by the American Psychological Association) examined "the effects of cannabis use on creativity and evaluations of creativity."


"Cannabis use may positively bias self-evaluations of creativity—but have no actual impact on creativity itself."

The study's authors proposed that cannabis use "would facilitate more creativity as well as more favorable evaluations of creativity via cannabis-induced joviality" and conducted two separate experiments to test their hypothesis. They found that cannabis does indeed facilitate joviality and that this state involves more favorable self-evaluations of creativity and idea generation.


However, the study also learned that its theory that cannabis use facilitates creativity via joviality "was not supported." It interpreted its findings to suggest that cannabis use may positively bias self-evaluations of creativity—but have no actual impact on creativity itself.

A couple share a cannabis joint.
Evidence lacking for cannabis-induced creativity.

Cannabis & Creativity: 2021 Study

Cannabis & Creativity. In a 2021 study entitled "Head in the Clouds? Cannabis Users' Creativity in New Venture Ideation Depends on their Entrepreneurial Passion and Experience" that was published in the Journal of Business Venturing explored "differences between cannabis users' and non-users' creativity in new venture ideation by assessing the originality and feasibility of their ideas."


The study explained that the task of entrepreneurial "new venture ideation" is inherently creative and that it serves as a "critical impetus" to the entrepreneurial process. "As such, scholars have long sought to understand the sources of creativity in new venture ideation, examining the influence of prior knowledge, alertness, experience, intuition, and pattern recognition, to name a few," reported the research.


"Scholars have long sought to understand the sources of creativity in new venture ideation."

It noted that entrepreneurs often attempt to enhance their creativity with cannabis. But does this actually work? Are those who perceive their cannabis use to enhance their creativity only imagining it?

A group of businesspeople in suits meet.
More original but less feasible?

The study revealed that entrepreneurs who used cannabis to assist them in the ideation of new ventures generated more original ideas, but that these ideas were less feasible (a phenomenon that some have labeled "highdeas").


"We theorized and found that cannabis users generate new venture ideas that are more original, but less feasible, compared to non-users," concluded the study.

"We theorized and found that cannabis users generate new venture ideas that are more original, but less feasible, compared to non-users," concluded the study. It noted that the latest research indicates that creativity may result from a combination of motivation and knowledge.


The scientists declared that their investigation "contributes to the literature on new venture ideation, entrepreneurial passion, entrepreneurial experience, and cannabis users' creativity by providing an integrated perspective of cognitive, motivational, and experiential factors that drive entrepreneurs' creativity."

A man with paint all over his hands.
Does pot make you creative?

Cannabis & Creativity: 2014 Study

Cannabis & Creativity. A 2014 study entitled "Cannabis and Creativity: Highly Potent Cannabis Impairs Divergent Thinking in Regular Cannabis Users" that was published in the journal Psychopharmacology investigated "the acute effects of cannabis on creativity." The design of the research was that of a randomized, double-blind study.


The research noted that Steve Jobs, the famous founder and CEO of Apple, Inc., was "an undeniably creative mind" and that he once stated: "The best way I could describe the effect of the marijuana and hashish is that it would make me relaxed and creative."


"The best way I could describe the effect of the marijuana and hashish is that it would make me relaxed and creative." — Steve Jobs, Apple

The scientific investigation examined the effects of administration of both low dose (5.5 mg) and high dose (22 mg) delta-9 THC via vaporization on "creativity tasks tapping into divergent and convergent thinking, in a population of regular cannabis users."


The research involved 54 "healthy regular cannabis users (48 males and six females)" from the Netherlands who participated in the study in exchange for a small financial compensation. Participants were recruited through internet ads, community bulletin boards, coffee shops, and word-of-mouth.

A man sits at a desk and ponders.
Pot users may merely perceive creativity.

The study's authors explained that creativity is not an easy thing to measure due to its ambiguous definition. "The concept of creativity is not very well defined and there is no agreement on one particular measure of how to assess it," they wrote. They noted that some experts consider the concept of creativity "to refer to the product of creative activities," while others think it reflects the personality of the product's creator.


"Cannabis with high THC in regular cannabis users is detrimental for divergent thinking; less potent cannabis does not enhance this important component of creativity."

The study concluded that a potent dose of vaporized cannabis (22 mg THC) "impairs divergent thinking in regular cannabis users" but that a low dose (5.5 mg THC) and placebo cannabis preparation did not. "This is reflected in the decreased scores for fluency, flexibility, and originality of responses of participants in the high-dose condition," reported the scientists.


"The findings indicate that administration of cannabis with a high THC content to regular cannabis users is detrimental for divergent thinking, while less potent cannabis does not seem to enhance this important component of creativity," summarized the researchers.


They concluded that the perception of enhanced creativity on the part of frequent cannabis consumers "could be an illusion."

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