Whether you’ve seen her onstage at your local punk music venue, featured in Vogue, or follow her column “Muff Stuff” on Vice’s Broadly, you know that Mish Way will never lead you astray. We asked her to investigate how marijuana affects creativity and you might be surprised by her answer.
I am not a weed person. I haven’t been since I graduated from high school. It’s easy to be stoned when your responsibilities total going to class and working a part-time job at a dry cleaners. Now, I have too many things to do that require I don’t shut my brain down. Unlike those who insist pot makes them more creative, I turn into a waste of space. When stoned I just want to have sex, watch Rory Gallagher live videos and shovel snacks into my gullet.
Stoners are boring. They sit there laughing at a plant for twenty minutes or philosophizing about the order of their record collection. Who cares?
I’ve met one weed advocate who impressed me. Chemist Ian Shaughnessy runs Rare Industries in Portland, Oregon and makes a variety of products, namely a low dosage vape pen called the Quill. I am going to get stoned now with the Quill to see if my creativity can hold up for the duration of this essay.
Here we go.
In 2014, a study was conducted in the Netherlands to find out if pot made people more creative and better problem solvers. Without even diving into the data, I predicted the results: an across the board “fuck no”.
The researchers took 53 participants and split them into groups giving one portion joints with 22 mg of THC, another joints with 5.5 mg of THC and the last, a placebo. After the subjects got high, the researchers asked them to complete two tasks. Firstly, to “think of as many uses as you can for a pen” and then, to find the link between the words “time”, “hair” and “stretching”. (Answer: long.)
Naturally, the super stoned fiddled about and barely pulled off the tasks. They probably just sat there braiding each other’s hair. The low dosage group managed to do reasonably well. (They displayed better creative thinking skills than the high dose group, and there were no signs of increased creativity in their actual performance.) The study concluded that their findings refuted any evidence that marijuana makes you more creative.
Of course people who like weed are going to believe it makes them better at life. That’s their perfect excuse for being high all day. Just like meth heads will tell you amphetamines are necessary to their successful function as they sit on their living room floor cutting up fashion magazines for their mood board collages, day three of no sleep. Junkies will try to convince you that opiates keep them calm and happy. (Ignore the puking, it’s just a sidebar.) Alcoholics will slur and spit in your face about the relaxing and essential effects of their afternoon vodka-rocks as they try to convince you, and themselves, that this crutch they have developed is not a crutch at all, but a necessity for everyday life that they can stop, anytime, but wait, just one more hit. One more drink. One more line of Dilaudid. I’ve been there. Hard stuff is, in the end, a losing game. It’s fun as shit. But you either die or go to rehab. Only unicorns can dabble in the hard stuff.
I remember trying to get off pills and smoking some old, dry weed I had kicking around my apartment. An ex-junkie friend of mine has suggested it. Being stoned was horrible. I got high too fast and laid paralyzed in my bed, the thought of morphine weighing even more heavily on my mind and now it was compounded with paranoia and anxiety. I was frozen in my own body and my thoughts raced around my head like a toy car on a track. I wanted to climb out of myself and kick my own ass for being so stupid.
For some of you, marijuana increases dopamine to your neurological system and you feel euphoric, like the world is your cushy, calm cloud. You have found your “therapeutic window”. In other words, you know exactly how much weed is enough weed and you never get pushed over the edge into that hyper paranoid place people like myself fear. You haven’t floated up outside of yourself and hated what was below you. You’ve just made a few cool paintings and laughed your head off at Dwight Schrute.
There’s been so many studies and I blame the results on the bias of who is conducting it. Whether or not weed makes you more creative banks solely on the subject. Some people write their best work on weed, while others swear by medical meth or a shot of tequila. We all need a booster, just not the same one. Moderation is key. Anything can be ruined by overkill.
Weed didn’t help me write this article. It dumbed me down. But, for all you out there who swear cannabis helps then smoke on.
Header image by Mandy-Lyn Antoniou