Cannabis and Music: Nature's Duet
“It really puzzles me to see marijuana connected with narcotics, dope, and all of that stuff…it is an assistant and a friend” - Louis Armstrong
Author: Samantha M., Pe Marketing Lead
There are few things as firmly linked together in Western society as music and cannabis are. Musicians have been using cannabis to unleash their creativity for what seems like time eternal, and the stereotypical stoner is often found chilling out with his favorite reggae record playing in pop culture representations. No smoke session is complete without a suitable soundtrack to fill the room and set the mood - but why do cannabis and music seem so naturally compatible?
While research in this area is somewhat sparse, there have been a few studies that have shed some light on the science behind cannabis’s natural enhancement of our perception of music. Let’s take a look at those findings to better understand what’s happening in our brains when we listen to music while stoned, and examine some common cannabis consumption methods that pair well with music - whether it’s your next at-home vinyl spin, or next summer’s big live music festival.
This is Your Brain On Music (and Cannabis)
We can begin our examination of the relationship between music appreciation and cannabis use with the most obvious connection point - the Relaxation factor. At moderate to high THC doses, cannabis is usually relaxing and calming, with the dominant terpene Myrcene typically producing some sedating, couch-lock type effects. This relaxed mental state puts you in a perfect frame of mind for musical enjoyment, as you won’t be distracted by other activities that divert your attention or desires to do something else. Being on the couch, with headphones, with nothing else distracting you from focusing on the music is about as ideal of a setting as you could ask for to really appreciate music.
Another common side-effect of cannabis use that may lend itself to enhanced musical enjoyment is the effect of THC on short-term memory formation. THC impairs our ability to form short-term memories and may lead to difficulty recalling details shortly after they occur - have you ever been telling a story while you were stoned, and completely lost your train of thought mid-sentence? This is an example of the memory effects of THC. This lack of moment-to-moment recall leads to a tendency toward“living in the moment”, without holding the notion of what came before or will come after at the same time. This can lead to a more engaging experience with the music, making it feel more vibrant and unpredictable even if it’s music you’ve listened to many times before, enhancing your perception of the musical experience.
This impact on our memory recall isn’t the only way that cannabis alters our perception of music - cannabis has a proven impact on how our brains process information. A 2002 study found that cannabis impacts the regions of our brain that process sound, speech, visual perception, and how we divide our attention to better process information. This multi-prong impact on the various sensory areas of our brain directly affects our perception of music in several ways.
First, by stimulating the region of our brains that deals with attention, we are able to focus in on the structure of the music - the researcher behind this study highlighted our enhanced perception of “the space between the notes” - put another way, when under the influence of cannabis, we are better able to appreciate the entire message of the music and instrumental arrangement, and draw our own conclusions of the meanings of each segment, rather than bopping to a catchy beat without examining its place in the musical piece as a whole. Cannabis’s ability to stimulate this brain region and increase blood flow to the cells leads to more focus with less brain energy expended - so not only are we more focused, it even becomes easier for our brain to focus on the moment.
Secondly, by stimulating the region of our brain that processes sounds and speech, we are able to connect more deeply with the notes and lyrics of music. Have you ever listened to a song you’d only heard sober while under the influence of cannabis for the first time, and picked out instruments or beats you had never heard in the music before? This is likely due to this increased processing of auditory information in our brains allowing us to better appreciate the individual components of a complex musical arrangement. Increased speech processing means better interpretation of song lyrics, and the tendency of cannabis to enhance hyper-priming - or the ability to connect to seemingly abstract and unrelated concepts - may lead to more creative lyrical interpretation by listeners, as well as increased creative output by musicians themselves.
Lastly, the ability of cannabis to enhance visual information processing can lead to an increase in visual interpretation of the music - allowing your brain to create actual scenes to the music in your mind, thus creating a more immersive musical appreciation experience that makes you feel like you’re “in the music”. Likewise, by stimulating all of these different sensory centers simultaneously, cannabis can create a “blurring of the senses” that enhances the immersive experience - “seeing music” and “tasting colors” are common experiences with strong psychoactive drugs like LSD, hallucinogenic mushrooms, and to a lesser degree, cannabis. This blurring of sensory information and resulting immersion can lead you to feel more in tune with your surroundings and the people sharing your social situation, which contributes a communal aspect to music appreciation with cannabis that reinforces the popularity of the combined activity at social gatherings.
In addition to its impact on our perception of sensory information like sound and visuals, study has shown that cannabis use has a significant impact on our perception of time, with nearly all users reporting that external time seems significantly slowed compared to their internal perception of time passing. This effect can lead to a more epic and cinematic musical experience - some users have reported feeling as if one side of a record lasts for hours. This can also enhance the feeling of savoring “the space between the notes” as described above, engaging the listener deeply in the flow of the music - like the impact of silence or note pauses on the gravitas of the composition. Some have theorized that this may also be part of the explanation behind cannabis’s historical association with improvisational, expressive music genres like jazz and reggae- the stretching in time perception may allow the improvising musician to “fit more notes” into each bar of music, producing the intricate grace note arrangements that are iconic of free form music, as well as the trance-like state often induced by the music in passionate listeners.
A final contributing factor to the symbiotic relationship of cannabis and music is their shared therapeutic benefits. People often use music as a mental escape from tough times, to help elevate their mood, or to set their intention for the flow of their day. Some studies have shown that music has light therapeutic benefits for pain relief and the control of anxiety. These are therapeutic benefits widely shared by cannabis, so using the two in conjunction can lead to an increase in mood elevation and a general feeling of well-being. The combined therapeutic benefits of cannabis and music will likely have a greater impact on your psyche than either of the stimulating experiences could produce alone.
Best Cannabis Products for Musical Appreciation
So now that you know the science behind how cannabis and music interact synergistically to produce an greater sensory experience in our brains, you may be wondering - what types of products are the best to enhance various musical appreciation scenarios? The good news is that because music is so versatile and can be appreciated in almost any situation, you can experiment with using cannabis while enjoying music in practically endless ways!
Arguably the most iconic combination of music and cannabis is during smoke sessions - whether you’re enjoying your flower or extracts alone or with friends, via glass, joint, vaporizer or any other delivery vehicle under the sun, popping on your favorite record or streaming a chill playlist through your preferred music platform is always a great idea. Most cannabis enthusiasts will agree that this is one of the best ways to unwind from a long day or spend a much-deserved lazy weekend afternoon.
If you’re looking to enhance a live music experience, the process may be complicated due to local laws around social consumption and security presence at the venue. While vaporizer pens and small smoking devices are more discreet than your at-home consumption options, the smell produced is still likely to draw unwanted attention, either from like-minded concert-goers or hyper-vigilant cops. For that reason, the best consumption methods for live music experiences are edibles and tinctures due to several factors. These consumption methods have a delayed onset, allowing you to consume them before entering the venue and begin feeling effects without the need to bring a cannabis product with you. They also generally have a longer duration of effects than smoking or vaporizing, meaning you may be able to enjoy the entire musical event without re-dosing, depending on your tolerance. If you do find yourself needing to re-dose during a music event, edibles are a far more discreet option thanks to their lack of smell and visible connection to cannabis - just make sure there are no rules against outside food or drink at your venue! Finally, using this method requires that you understand your ideal THC dose for a socially-crowded, active situation, as well as your standard onset time and approximate duration of effects from that dose, so that you can dose appropriately for that situation and not have your experience turn uncomfortable.
We hope that these insights on how cannabis can enhance the appreciation of your favorite music have helped you connect with the power of the plant more deeply. If you’re interested in learning more about how cannabis works together with our bodies to support our health, check out our write-up on the Human Endocannabinoid System. If you’re nervous about experimenting with cannabis for the first time, especially edibles, read our blog post on preventing and combatting the negative side effects of THC overconsumption.
*DISCLAIMER: These opinion pieces are personal experiences of the individual authors, and are not medical recommendations, medical claims, or usage recommendations from the company. Our products are not approved by the FDA to treat, cure or prevent any diseases. Periodic edibles supports responsible cannabis use in accordance with all local laws.