Music & Marijuana: More than Medicine

By Marisa DeZara

Aside from their celebrated music, Jerry Garcia, Willie Nelson, Snoop Dogg, Bob Marley, Rihanna and Miley Cyrus have one major thing in common: marijuana. You probably already knew that, but do you know how burning one down can aid their creative process?


Marijuana as Muse

Several famous musicians, some not featured on my list, have been able to stimulate their creativity through the consumption of marijuana. On April 10th, 2014, Tom Barnes reported, “THC in marijuana smoke causes the body to release elevated levels of dopamine […], dopamine can lower one’s inhibitions and quiet the inner editor allowing thoughts to flow more freely.”

As alluded to in the quote from Barnes, it’s understood that marijuana doesn’t actually give artists a newfound talent; however, if the talent is there, marijuana can be used as a helpful agent, a substance that drives thoughts, ideas, and, sometimes, a masterpiece.

The feel-good, relaxed high that users have come to love is more than medicine to some people; Louis Armstrong, the famous American jazz musician and singer, wrote in his autobiography how marijuana is “a thousand times better than whiskey … it’s an assistant — a friend.”


Cultural Context

While it might be debatable, cannabis use can be partly credited for the way music by Jerry Garcia, Bob Marley and Willie Nelson continues to transcend time and trends. Their music is supreme, and their legendary lifestyles have kept their work relevant and still engage today’s youth.

CBS News reports that the “rate [at which teens regularly smoke marijuana] went from 5 percent in 2008 to 9 percent last year, or about 1.5 millions teens toking up that frequently.” Despite health risks associated with this jump, marijuana use among younger adults has allowed them to connect to Bob Marley’s “Kaya” and the music festival culture that has ensued since Woodstock, the first music festival to welcome the subcultural context of marijuana.

“Youth subcultural participants develop their own value systems, and the rituals and social norms that are adopted by them can function to govern the ways in which drug use plays out within a particular sub-cultural scene,” according to an article published in Deviant Behavior on January 14, 2014.

Music festivals, as one predominant sub-cultural scene, can provide younger people with the musical experience of a lifetime. Festival line-ups and announcements continue to spring up everywhere, and the popular use of cannabis at these events is undeniable.


Mixing Marijuana and Music Festivals

Although festival attendees may enjoy smoking copious amounts of cannabis, community members of the surrounding festival grounds tend to disagree. Of the numerous music festivals to take place in Colorado, South Park Fest specifically commemorates and celebrates Colorado’s decision to legalize marijuana.

On July 5, 2014, CBS News Denver reported, “people in [Fairplay, CO] complain that the festival is littering their backyard with drugs, crime and noisy party-goers.” If citizen complaints arose due to undesirable festival activity, is that enough to end the South Park Music Festival? J.J. Welker, the festival’s event producer, argued, “it’s bringing a lot of revenue to the city. We run a very organized event, and I think after this weekend they’re going to understand, ‘Oh, that is the way you run a festival.'”

South Park Fest is not the only stoner-magnet music festival to occur in the United States. Summer Camp Music Festival in Chillicothe, Illinois, is a three-day run of music and pot smoking fun, at least for those who don’t get busted. After three days of festivities, local and state police were successful in “seizing more than 16 pounds of marijuana.” Sixteen pounds seems like a lot for one weekend, but remember that is simply the amount that police were able to find; imagine how much marijuana they may have missed.

Considering the nature of marijuana and music, it’s no surprise to cultural connoisseurs that weed lovers would flock to an event that offers 72 hours of non-stop tunes, but even academics understand it. In 2001, the Journal of Cannabis Therapeutics published Peter Webster’s article Marijuana and Music: A Speculative Exploration. According to Webster, “The magical and inspiring quality of a given piece, revealed under the effects of cannabis, remains magical and profound long into the future, whether or not it is ever again experienced under the influence.”


Cultural Currency

Current musicians that embrace cannabis represent a clear variety of musical genres. When most people think “smoking music,” they think reggae, hip-hop or jam bands. However, with the surfacing of marijuana subculture into mainstream media, pop music is beginning to adopt a more accepting view of cannabis. Miley Cyrus and Rhianna are two, among many, famous stars that remain relevant in today’s pop scene who openly incorporate marijuana into their image.

Mainstream cannabis advocacy may extend beyond a genuine love for pot and in certain circumstances, stars endorse cannabis-related companies to enhance their pot-friendly image. Wiz Khalifa, as well as rap stars Curren$y, Smoke DZA and Slim Thug, has partnered with RAW rolling papers to help brand its product.

Wiz Khalifa is the first musical artist to partner with RAW to create its only branded product, a rolling kit which includes papers, filters and a poker. In addition, Wiz is open about his devotion to rolling papers, not blunts, in both his music and interviews.

He may have had some bad times with blunts, but Wiz’s habitual blunt bashing and paper promotion in his music may very well be tied to his business ventures. Wiz continues to be successful because he is a smart entrepreneur who knows how to play to an audience with mutual appreciation for marijuana.


Listen to the Music

Ten years ago, there was not a sliver of cannabis present in pop culture, especially among pop culture’s leading women. This massive shift in discourse and lyrical rhetoric among pop culture icons is likely associated with the way contemporary society has been encouraging widespread acceptance of legal marijuana. Since some of the best creative minds continue to take note, listen to the music.

Guest Contributor designates a writer who is guest publishing content with MJINews.

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