If it were a product placement, it would have been worth millions: The world's most famous entrepreneur, Elon Musk, smoking a blunt on a popular podcast. Since Elon Musk is a role model for thousands if not millions of entrepreneurs, it's reasonable to ask: has marijuana helped make Musk such wildly creative genius?
Well, turns out there is substantial, long-standing evidence that smoking marijuana might make you more creative, but at a cost (so please read the entire post before attempting to follow Musk's example.)
The connection between marijuana and creativity was established in a landmark 1972 study of 8-12th graders published in Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. Researchers discovered that
"increasing frequency of marihuana use was significantly related to increased creativity, adventuresomeness, internal sensation, novelty seeking and impulsivity, and decreased authoritarianism."
That result was confirmed in 1974 in a similar study of 316 college students that was published in Psychiatric Quarterly and again in 1977, this time in a study of 278 college students published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology.
Similar results emerged fifteen years later in the Journal of College Student Development which quoted findings from several new studies (all using a different methodology from previous studies) showing that
"people who smoked marijuana provided more original (i.e. statistically infrequent) responses on a test of associative ability than members of a placebo group. [This] provides limited support for a beneficial relationship between creative processes and marijuana use."
These results were confirmed in a 2014 study of 30 college students published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs. Researchers found that "cannabis users had significantly more 'rare-creative' responses than controls."
So, when Elon Musk smokes a blunt, it's probably having a positive overall effect on his creativity.Nevertheless, you should think twice--and even thrice--before lighting up yourself, Here's why.
Apart from the many health risks (and legal risks in areas where it's still illegal), there are some huge downsides to marijuana when it comes to creative processes. For example, a 2010 study of 60 regular users and 60 novice users and published in the Creativity Research Journal discovered that
"the use of marijuana had lno positive effects on divergent thinking (creativity) in novice users and reduced it in regular users." (emphasis mine)
Even worse, while one of the key studies conducted in the 1990s found that marijuana sparked creativity, also found that
"marijuana use had negative effects upon a wide variety of other cognitive performance tasks related to creative thinking, such as slowed reaction time during associative tasks, decreased text comprehension, and degraded short-term memory." (emphasis mine)
Not good but there you have it. Since your brain is by far your most important and essential tool, it's probably a very bad idea to risk impairing your brain simply to get a temporary creative burst, especially on a regular basis.
That being said, I had one of my best business ideas--an idea that won me a major engineering award and launched me into a career in high tech--while stuck in rush hour traffic, smoking a joint, as they were erstwhile called. I haven't smoked in a very long time (it makes me paranoid) but the simple truth is that without those 8 or 9 puffs, I wouldn't be writing this today.
But, again, it's probably not worth the risk. And that goes for you, too, Elon.