Flaherty and other neuroscientists in her field aren’t the only ones trying to make sense of marijuana’s connection to creativity. Artists themselves are curious, too—especially given the growing number of cannabis strains, weed-related products, and assorted paraphernalia being heavily marketed across the country. (For instance, a recently launched app, called Cannacopia
, lets you search for different strains based on desired effect; a search for creativity turns up Platinum Jack, Sour Lemon Diesel, White Yurkle, Chemdawg, and Columbian Gold, among others.)
Musician and songwriter Aaron Lammer (who has written tracks with Chance the Rapper and Bon Iver, and is also the co-founder of the popular website Longform
) has devoted a podcast, called Stoner, to the subject. On the show, Lammer invites guests—from artists and musicians to cannabis entrepreneurs and experts—to talk weed. Conversations often start with the question “When was the first time you ever smoked weed?”
The idea for Stoner was born when Lammer (who smokes pot recreationally himself) realized that there was a dearth of information available about experiences with weed, despite the growing number of creatives he saw using it. “I was curious about how different people used it,” he tells me. “But surprisingly, there wasn’t a ton of information being shared online, so I wanted to start building up a base of knowledge.”
On many of Stoner’s 26 episodes, the dialogue turns to how weed influences guests’ artistic practices—whether it’s novels by Tao Lin, films by Benjamin Dickinson or Sebastián Silva, or poetry by Mira Gonzalez. Individual responses to the drug vary, and reflect the fluctuating use and efficacy of pot over the course each artist’s adult life.
Dickinson, for instance, had a period of extreme productivity when he first started smoking weed in college. “Suddenly I was making connections I’d never made. I felt creatively free. I felt a new connection to the absurd and the bizarre and a comfort being in those places, so it really was a wonderful tool,” he tells Lammer. But after 9/11, when Dickinson was struggling with the tragedy and using weed to self medicate, “it sort of turned on me,” he explains. “It was a like an inversion. Whereas before I was feeling expansive, social, openhearted, open to new ideas, I started becoming paranoid and isolated and antisocial.”
Lin, on the other hand, took up the drug later in life, and these days includes a dose of weed in his meticulous daily routine. He says it bolsters his creative process.
“When it comes to both creativity itself, and creativity as it pertains to using marijuana, no two people are the same,” Lammer offers, reflecting on what he’s found through his interviews. “Most people who are capable of having a creative, energetic, focused, productive experience have experimented a lot on themselves, and have learned to be patient when it comes to figuring out what works for them and what doesn’t—whether it’s marijuana they’re experimenting with, or something else.”