In case you haven’t noticed yet: music and cannabis go hand in hand. Whether it’s listening to music or creating music. But I’m sure most of you know. But what you may not know is that there is actually some science to back it up. And while we’re at it, we might as well go delve deeper in the relationship musicians have (and have had ) with cannabis in this new edition of the Suzy’s Cannabis World Blog. The influence has been huge. On humans AND plants.
The science behind cannabis and music
There’s actually four bits of cannabis science that play a role in how you perceive music. THC reduces the blood flow to part of the brain (temporal cortices) where sensory processing happens. At the same time, it increases blood flow to the part (orbitofrontal cortex) where emotions and rewards are being formed. This could be why music sounds more unpredictable and triggers a more emotional response.
But it also works on the parts of your brain involved with decision-making and motivation, because it increases activity in the striatum. This increases your desire to listen to music and makes it more satisfying.
Cannabis also blurs the lines between the senses. It does so in various ways. Whether its vision (occipital cortex), touch (somatosensory system) or taste (gustatory perception): all of these get heightened while you’re using cannabis. Cannabis causes you to combine all these senses also called multisensory integration.
A 1976 study found it doesn’t make you hear better, but rather improves your cognition which in turn makes you process it more efficiently. Intricacies will be easier to pick up, as in, you’ll be able to appreciate more how a complicated piece of music is made.
It all started with the jazz musicians
Now knowing the science, it explains a lot why jazz became so associated with cannabis use. It was in fact black jazz musicians who introduced cannabis to the public in the 20’s and 30’s. While using it creatively, it was also being used by the audience in the jazz clubs. But it wasn't just the musicians and the audience picking this up. Also the government took notice. Harry Anslinger of the newly founded DEA, needed something different to go after when alcohol prohibition was over. He was quoted saying:
‘Dear Agent So-and-so, Please prepare all cases in your jurisdiction involving musicians in violation of the marijuana laws. We will have a great national round-up arrest of all such persons on a single day. I will let you know what day.’
By enforcing cannabis prohibition, the DEA could push through their racist agenda.
One of the most famous and first jazz musicians who was into cannabis, was Louis Armstrong. He would buy his cannabis from Mezz Mezzrow, who would become so important in the supply of cannabis to the jazz scene that Mezz became slang for cannabis. Meanwhile he took on the nickname of Muggles King.
Cannabis use spiked in the sixties
And then came the sixties and cannabis became really mainstream. The biggest bands at the time, from the Beatles to the Doors, to Pink Floyd, Jimy Hendrix and Jefferson Airplane: all were fond of using the plant. And they did. Wholeheartedly. And so did most people listening to their music. Especially when they all came together at Woodstock-like festivals.
Even more so, cannabis became associated as the number one drug being used by the hippies. This became another reason for the DEA to enforce cannabis prohibition. President Nixon’s Domestic Policy Chief, John Ehrlichman, actually later admitted:
“The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people… We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”
Cannabis legalisation praised in reggae
But it really was reggae that became most associated by cannabis, originating in the late 60’s and coming from Jamaica. Cannabis had been used since the 1850’s in Jamaica, being brought there from India where cannabis played a big role in the culture and religions. They would sing about the news and political commentary, so it makes sense they would sing about cannabis and the legalisation of cannabis.
Among the most famous reggae musicians and praisers of the use of cannabis were Bob Marley, Lee Scratch Perry and Peter Tosh.
And then Hiphop was invented
In the 70’s Hip Hop, also known as rap music, first was invented in the Bronx, New York City. But it wasn’t until 1988 when Hip Hop really entered the mainstream and lyrics about cannabis were reaching listener’s ears through Dr Dre, Ice Cube, Run D.M.C. and the Beastie Boys. This was mostly tongue in cheek, which is why Cypress Hill’s 1991 self-titled album was such a gamechanger having a cannabis leaf on the cover. We all know Snoop Dogg and his appreciation and love for cannabis.
And then dropped Dr. Dre’s The Chronic in 1992. The rest is history.
The effect of music on cannabis plants
It wasn’t just music being influenced by cannabis either. Also the other way around. Cannabis plants are influenced by music too. Most relevant are the studies published in the sixties by Dr. T. C. Singh, Head of Botany at Annamalai University in India. He not only found violin music to work best to help germination, he also found that classical music in general improved the growth rate.
To help you on your musical journey, check out our music playlists on the Suzy Seeds YouTube channel.