No matter what kind of music you like, and no matter what strain of cannabis really floats your boat, there’s one thing we can all agree on: Weed and music are a killer combination. And as it turns out, weed and music have a long and storied history together.
In this country, the marriage dates back at least to the early 20th century and the birth of jazz.
Louis Armstrong was a regular smoker, like many of his contemporaries. His biography even quotes him as saying “We always looked at pot as a sort of medicine, a cheap drunk and with much better thoughts than one that’s full of liquor.”
Cannabis—or marihuana in the lingo of the day—was integral to jazz, R&B, folk, and rock. In short, all the music that helped make America the global beacon of pop culture in the 20th century. Imagine, say, the music of the Beatles without the profound influence cannabis had on their writing and recording process, starting from their storied first meeting with Bob Dylan, on August 28, 1964, in which the American folk singer turned the Fab Four on to marijuana, forever altering their music and their trajectory.
But for some of us, knowing weed and music are like peas in a pod isn’t quite enough. We want to know why they go so well together too. On that front, the science is fairly skimpy, but we can at least make some educated guesses.
Weed and Music: An Overlapping Pleasure Center?
One theory about cannabis’ positive effect on music perception has to do with the architecture of the brain. Because cannabis has an effect on the auditory cortex—the portion of the brain that processes sound—some researchers theorize that it’s potentiating or otherwise enhancing our pleasurable reaction to sound.
Interestingly enough, one study found that the opposite occurred. When the study’s subjects inhaled cannabis containing no CBD, they showed less stimulation in the auditory cortex and related areas.
This dampening was lessened when subjects inhaled weed containing CBD, but the reduction in sensation persisted. Essentially, while subjects enjoyed music more, their brains were stimulated less. Hmm….
Listening While High: Is It All About Time?
Another theory is that because it’s well established that cannabis changes our perception of time. It allows music listeners to “slow down” and “drop in” to music in a way that reveals sonic, lyrical, and thematic details.
In reality, of course, our ears under the influence of cannabis aren’t hearing anything different from our “straight” ears. But because marijuana modulates what’s called our “attentional spotlight”—in other words, the ability of the brain to focus on certain stimuli and filter out others—it seems as though we’re hearing much more than usual. You might say it’s what makes the music “deep, man.”
With societal stigmas about cannabis fast disappearing, we’re hoping that science will provide definitive answers before long. But until then, you won’t need a degree to agree: Weed and music will always go great together.