Cannabis consumers have always bragged about having more original ideas or heightened creativity after partaking. Unfortunately we don't have a lot of studies that explain how or why this happens. We do know that creativity happens in the brain's frontal cortex and cannabinoid receptors are located in the frontal cortex but not much more than that.
A 2015 Dutch study tested both divergent thinking, brainstorming or coming up with many solutions to a loose problem, and convergent thinking, finding the best solution for a defined problem. The study showed that cannabis consumption did correlate with signs of divergent thinking. Their study focused on regular users and found that low doses increased fluency, flexibility and originality while higher doses decreased divergent thinking. However, regular users have lower dopamine levels so less frequent users may have a different result.
In a 2012 London study, those low on the creativity scale tested as high as those high on the creativity scale while under the influence of cannabis.
Out of the Box
Cannabis lowers inhibitions, opening your mind to new ideas previously outside of the bounds of your conscious thought. It can also get you into trouble if your inhibitions are protecting you from situations that can harm you and others.
Given the right strain, cannabis can cause you to become more of an extrovert. This allows you to be more open to discussion and collaboration, making ideas more abundant and creative solutions more likely.
Throughout his career Carl Sagan praised cannabis for its contribution to creativity and intellectual engagement. He wrote “The illegality of cannabis is outrageous, an impediment to full utilization of a drug which helps produce the serenity and insight, sensitivity and fellowship so desperately needed in this increasingly mad and dangerous world.”
Cannabis releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain, which stimulates the reward-motivation system. Creative ideas can feed the reward-motivation system, by producing positive stimulation when preferred ideas are discovered, which stimulates the production of dopamine, causing the desire for more ideation.
The euphoria generally associated with cannabis can increase impulsiveness, generating more ideas, both constructive and destructive, making your creative time more fruitful.
A Means to an End
Cannabis can increase novelty-seeking; a clinical condition in which an unquenchable need for new experiences is fostered due to a malfunctioning dopamine system. Novelty-seeking often requires non-conventional solutions in order to generate the maximum amount of dopamine production to compensate for the disorder. Creativity is critical to maintaining a consistent level of dopamine, giving rise to the phrase “A jack of all trades, and master of none”.
Cannabis can increase focus at low doses while offer “tunnel vision” at high doses. Properly adjusted, it can help you ignore the distractions of external stimuli and better target your creative solution. Cannabis in low doses may be better for creative thought, while high doses can cause the brain to become chaotic. An optimal level of cannabis intake can be achieved through experimentation.
Magic Time. There seems to be a window of optimum creative inspiration between 5 to 30 minutes after cannabis has first taken effect. This window can vary depending on the method of consumption.