Anecdotal evidence is enough to assume weed affects creativity, as many creators and artists like to engage in the ganja. From country legend Willie Nelson running his own cannabis chain called Willie’s Reserve, to Louis Armstrong’s love affair with the plant, there’s no doubt it is a popular choice amongst creative folk. But does weed make artists more creative or are creative people naturally drawn to the plant already? Understanding how weed influences creativity, and what strains are best for this purpose, can help anyone tap into their creative mind.

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Convergent And Divergent Thinking

A study from years back found that cannabis does not heighten creativity in its users. The study looked at two different processes: convergent and divergent thinking. Convergent thinking is solving a problem with one clear answer. What color is the sky? It’s blue. 

Divergent thinking is more abstract and involves a multitude of possible solutions. Will smoking this joint make me more creative? I might get sleepy, I might get hungry, I might get a burst of creativity, or I might just want to watch the Simpsons. Or, I could eat a snack while laying on the couch watching the Simpsons. Divergent thinking.

To be creative, you need to channel both types of thinking. Divergent thinking is important for looking at all the possibilities and determining different possible outcomes. Convergent thinking is necessary to narrow down those possible outcomes and pick which one is right for your project. Divergent thinking is more complex and abstract and is the process associated with higher creativity.

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creative thinking iStock / ismagilov

In the study, 53 regular cannabis users were administered either a low-THC dose of marijuana, a high-THC dose of marijuana, or a placebo. Subjects were then given different tasks to test their performance for both convergent thinking and divergent thinking. The difference in performance for convergent thinking was low enough to infer that the plant does not impair convergent thinking.

For divergent thinking, however, subjects taking the high-THC dose performed worse on their creative tests, while those with a low dose or placebo performed about the same. This leaves the inspired, creative potheads with a lot of questions, like, does this study even prove anything? We know weed affects individuals differently, and that different strains have different purposes. And then there’s the question of how the subjects would have performed had they been in the comfort of their own home or studio where they are used to getting their creativity on.

Openness to New Experiences

Another study set out to find answers without ever getting its subjects high. Researchers at Washington State University studied over 700 people, with 400 identifying as cannabis users and 300 people identifying as non-users. Participants engaged in a series of psychological tests, while sober, to determine their creative abilities.

Cannabis users self-reported higher levels of creativity than non-users. However, they did not have any tangible proof in the form of creative achievements. In this study, cannabis users performed better on convergent thinking tests than non-users. The study did not prove that cannabis users are more creative because of their cannabis use.

Results of this study suggested that cannabis users are more creative not because of their use of the drug, but because users tend to have different personality traits than non-users. Users are said to be more open to new experiences, which probably explains why they tried marijuana in the first place. With this openness comes higher levels of creativity.

The Bottom Line

One study previously found marijuana can increase hyper-priming, the brain’s ability to connect two seemingly unrelated items. Connecting these concepts can assist in divergent thinking, which is linked to higher creativity. Whether cannabis truly increases creativity or not is up in the air. The studies are flawed and do not represent typical use for creative stoners, or the abundance of different strains which all tout unique terpene profiles. Plus, defining and monitoring creativity is not an easy task.

If cannabis use makes you more creative, don’t let that go because there is no concrete proof. Maybe when you’re in the zone, alone, and feeling imaginative, marijuana can be the factor that helps you think further outside the box. It’s also likely marijuana could burn you out, make you tired, or kill the motivation to create altogether. Luckily, there are many strains anecdotally known to heighten creativity in those who smoke them.

Best Strains for Creativity

Smoking young man is losing his head by smoke iStock / alice in otherland

If you’re looking to boost your creativity, there are plenty of strains worth trying out. The important thing is to look for ones that will give you an energetic boost and euphoria rather than ones that will have you couch locked and useless.

Acapulco Gold is a sativa-dominant hybrid that elevates moods without being overpowering. The mixture of relaxation and positive mood help boost creativity by giving the user a little extra push.

Blue Dream is a well-known, popular strain that can help boost your creative energy. The effects are balanced, relaxing and energizing the user at the same time. It’s a great choice because it can help enhance the creative process without bogging the user down with sedative effects.

Green Crack is a popular strain named by Snoop Dogg himself. It’s an energizing strain that gets the mind buzzing and sometimes a bit wired. Too much is known to go in the opposite direction and induce paranoia, so it’s important to start small and know your limits. A little Green Crack can go a long way when trying to find that creative spark.

Jack the Ripper got its name from the famous serial killer, and it's known for its racing and psychedelic effects. Its cerebral effects are stimulating, making it perfect for a daytime art session. If you want to lift your spirits and get a little inspiration, Jack the Ripper could be your strain.