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Which Came First - Cannabis or the Artist?

Which Came First - Cannabis or the Artist?

By Bianca Blanche

ARTIST: GRILLED PEPSI

When it comes to creativity, some people think you either have it or you don’t. But what if that’s just another misleading story we’ve been told since childhood? What if everyone, at any age, is capable of discovering a source of artistry from within? Would your life look differently than it does now? As an over-thinking Aquarius, I’m constantly checking in with myself. Am I living authentically? Am I being truthful to my purpose? Am I expanding passed my comfort zone? These personal crossroads can be freaking exhausting! But staying in alignment is a daily practice… so I’ve been told. One could say a similar discipline is needed for expanding a particular craft, as well. We may not all be artists but we’re definitely all creators, and tapping into that blissful flow is a divine, yet human right. 

Moreover, could cannabis be the obvious instrument for accessing the creative well of our innovative being? Many Ancient Eastern civilizations certainly seemed to think so, considering what we know about particular cultural practices and through historic literature like The Vedas, a series of sacred Hindu texts. It is in these religious scriptures that cannabis is listed as one of the five sacred plants. At the time, cannabis was mainly viewed as a tool for increasing joy and decreasing fear. Personally, I couldn’t agree more. But then again, with its array of different outcomes, could cannabis consumption be more of a hindrance than a tool? In order to get more insight, I reached out to several creatives (who all happen to smoke weed) to pick their brains about creativity, cannabis, and following your passion in life. Their common theme? At some point they all stopped caring about what other people thought, and started focusing on what made them truly happy. A pretty brazen move by society’s standards. So was this blind fearlessness a byproduct from countless hazy sessions? Or do they all just happen to love weed because they weren’t afraid to try it in the first place? Recent scientific research has been conducted on the topic but the official verdict is still out. It seems there’s a bit of a chicken-or-the-egg-like conundrum when it comes to the relationship between cannabis and creativity. Are innately creative people more likely to experiment with psychedelics? Or does the use of cannabis unleash a direct source for creativity? What does creativity even mean?

IMAGE SOURCE: LAS VEGAS WEEKLY

Emily Anderson, a private chef and founder of Plant Base Collective, views creativity as “what drives someone to do remarkable things — it’s the ability to create magic”. For others like Natasha Singh it’s also about finding the magic in everyday life. “I look at creativity as taking whatever art form you’re doing and putting your own twist to it. Finding the boundaries and pushing outside of them to make something new and different. I would say I’m creative in many ways. As a henna artist, as a mother and dancer, cooking in the kitchen, there are a lot of ways anyone can be creative” shares Singh, a cannabis advocate and professional henna artist. Singh states “micro dosing cannabis helps my muscles relax when I have to stay bent over for hours doing henna for a brides. It helps me stay focused, calm and create henna art more freely.” This idea of ‘creating more freely’ is intriguing. The type of thought process which unleashes the mind allowing it to generate new ideas more spontaneously, is also known as divergent thinking. Brainstorming is a great example of divergent thinking. Interestingly, a study from the University College of London showed that smoking cannabis actually increased divergent thinking among people who didn’t consider themselves creative. “I believe cannabis helps navigate the creative mind. The world is a chaotic place, super noisy and I know for me cannabis has helped me cultivate a place of peace” expresses LA-based artist Jesus Hands. Jesus Hands, who’s name is Zach, continues “I think everyone has the ability to be creative and that’s what makes us unique. The difference is some people practice, learn and develop the skills associated with being creative, which in turn leads to greater discoveries within the creative space. For me cultivating my creative assets comes from multiple sources. Whether it’s exploring the city, gardening or hanging with my kids, planting those seeds of joy directly contribute to my creative zone.”

Harlee Case, Co-Founder and CEO of the fashion-forward and Portland-based creative agency ‘Ladies of Paradise’, also believes in the power of ganja to enhance her creative talents. “I love to smoke and do anything creative. [Cannabis] just helps me dive in and not be fearful of throwing ideas out there. Everyone's biggest strength is being 100% themselves. You’re the only one who can create exactly what's in your head” expresses Case. Her favorite strains for getting in the zone? “Ghost Train Haze is a very fun strain. I love Tangies for [increasing] creativity, as well.” Case, and the rest of her eclectic team at Ladies of Paradise, have even created their own cannabis products including prepackaged pre-rolls called ‘Lady Jays’, and THC vape cartridges called ‘Day Trip’. But that’s not all, these talented ladies have their sight towards the future, too. “We are patiently waiting for psychedelics to be legalized, because we have a lot of concepts ready to go [once they are]” exclaims Case. DISCLAIMER: I will be on a plane to Portland the second they do!

IMAGE SOURCE: KIRASOLLY/SHUTTERSTOCK

Another study on the topic by Emily M. LaFrance and Carrie Cuttler for “Consciousness and Cognition” discovered that sober cannabis consumers had a higher level of convergent thinking than those who didn’t consume. Convergent thinking basically means finding the “best” single solution to any given problem. This type of thought process is a bit more straightforward. If we combined the results from these studies, one might gather the following — essentially, cannabis has the potential to make non-creatives who don’t typically consume cannabis better at divergent thinking, and habitual cannabis consumers better at convergent thinking, even when sober. This seems to be the case for Adrian Farquhason, Chief Creative Officer of MARY Magazine, as well. “When I’m working on theme guides for the next issue of MARY or an upcoming event we’re hosting – it always begins with a blank piece of paper. It’s my canvas to let my brain run free and write down any thought that comes out. This is usually my first draft for anything. I don’t limit my thoughts or thinking because you never know what idea will work or not, so let I let my brain pump out whatever comes to mind. Then I usually take a second pass at those ideas and refine or finesse the initial thoughts. Cannabis does play a role in these moments, I can use cannabis to quiet my mind and silence any outside chatter so my focus is locked on whatever my subject is at the moment. Then there are times, I can use cannabis to push my creative and cognitive thinking.” 

I imagine some of you out there might be thinking ‘I smoke weed too but I’m not an artist’. Again, when I refer to creativity in this piece, I’m not just referring to painting, or singing, or writing. I think RJ Balde, a man of many, many talents, and titles said it best “to me, creativity is the sum of the ways in which one satisfactorily expresses themselves and/or solves complex issues. Everyone wants to feel understood, to feel ‘seen,’ and creativity serves as a self-translator. I consider myself to be creative but I believe that creativity is inherent in everyone. For humanity to have gotten this far, to have built cities, to have a million variations of coffee preparations, to develop medical breakthroughs, to have polluted the earth in countless ways and to develop innovative ways to attempt to clean it, it had to be creative.” Balde, an entertainer and content creator for websites like The WeedTube, continues “I’ve certainly had creative breakthroughs with the help of cannabis. I find that cannabis amplifies whatever my brain frequency is currently at, whether that be in a flowing or clogged creative state… But what it also does is provide me with that extra layer of consciousness that allows me to become aware of my brain space, and engage or come back to my breath as need be. I absolutely believe that every person has a reservoir of creativity within them and some are better at tapping into that well than others. But creativity exists in every micro-decision we make daily, from choosing what to wear to deciding what to top your poke bowl with. Balancing work, life, and self while sustaining physical, mental and spiritual life takes hella creativity.” 

IMAGE SOURCE: SPACES IMAGES/GETTY

Whether it’s for personal or professional gain, the potential to be creative is always right at our fingertips. Something I found most admirable about these individuals is not their cannabis consumption, although indeed impressive, but more so their openness to experience life on their terms. “For most of my life I have been at war with my creativity. I had convinced myself to abandon my creative inclinations, eventually leading to a mid-youth crisis that landed me in law school. I was in my mid-20's and had disillusioned myself into thinking I was an academic (spoiler alert: I am not). I felt stifled and suffocated. This is when I conceptualized Disco Dining Club — an act of rebellion that allowed me to lean into my most creative self. This, however, was my personal journey. Others can find creativity in a classroom or in a corporate setting or raising a family, as creativity is not what you do but how you do it. I believe that the creative mind builds context and narrative. Creativity is allowing even the most mundane task to create a sense of wonderment” explains Courtney Nichols, founder and CEO of Disco Dining Club. It took a second but Nichols broke out of the confinement she’d created for herself and started Disco Dining Club, which is known for its fantastical, thematic, and very theatrical dinner parties. 

As we learn more about cannabis in the 21st century, I’m eager to see what else science discovers about my favorite plant and its relation to creativity. I can’t help but daydream about what our world would be like if we were all more open to new experiences and people. Makes you wonder how we all can be more brave? For some, a little bit of cannabis might help do the trick. 

Follow Bianca Blanche on IG @thestonedjournalist

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