The Science of Why Cannabis and Music Have a Soulful Relationship

By Andre F. Bourque on December 17, 2017

Cannabis and music just go together. With a joint of your favorite flavor and a good set of earbuds or quality earphones, smoke and music will fill your head. 

Cannabis and music have a reciprocal relationship, a synergy with chemical, neurological and sense experience at work simultaneously. The music provides a fuller social setting for smoking with others and a better solitary experience when smoking alone. 

Understanding that relationship says much about the science of cannabis, the nature of music and the pleasure of listening while elevated.

THC Enhances the Music Experience

Cannabis doesn't change your ear or make the music better, but it does change the way you perceive music. It also does this with your perception of time, color and space. However, because music is fundamentally a function of time, it'll sound different to you.

According to the book Altered States of Consciousness, events take longer to occur. The impression is that external time must have slowed down, while the internal experience continues at the same rate. “There is not the impression of speed or rapidity, but that the time available to the user is magnified,” the book reports. 

Cannabis Works on the Brain

Depending on the balance of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and (cannabidiol) CBD in your cannabis strain, it will affect your serotonin, dopamine and hippocampal levels. These all affect your mood and trigger your relaxation. And research suggests that receptor activation by plant-derived cannabinoids may promote hippocampal neurogenesis, or the regrowth of neurons. They prepare you, in a sense, to appreciate and open yourself to larger sense experiences.

McGill professor and psychologist Daniel J Levitin hypothesizes that cannabis' effect on short-term memory, in particular, may be the reason why music listening experiences are enhanced. This disruption forces music listeners into registering thoughts at a different pace than normal. Because listeners are “unable to explicitly keep in mind what has just been played, or to think ahead to what might be played, people stoned on pot tend to hear music from note to note,” Levetin believes.  

Cannabis Enhances Brain Activity

Electroencephalogram (EEG) tests report cannabis changes activity in the brain’s occipital lobe where the brain interprets what you see. It also affects the temporal lobe that processes speech and sound. And, it energizes the parietal lobe where the brain coordinates and integrates the sensory experience. With all three of them excited, the music experience expands.

Relaxation Function

Cannabis provides relaxation based largely on the ratio of THC to CBD. If it leaves you couch locked, making the music louder doesn't really enhance the listening experience. However, more balanced strains will improve your alertness, focus and openness to creativity. That can make for a positive listening event.

Custom Cannabis Playlists

Rachelle Gordon reports on a startup called Hi-Tunes, a marketing ploy to connect music and cannabis. She says, “Each Hi-Tunes pre-roll features a different artist, and each joint comes with a QR code for a free song download from the artist on the tube.” Together with product endorsements from Snoop Dogg, the Marley Family and other celebrity users, it’s another move towards optimizing the marketing possibility of linking music and cannabis. 

Drugs and Rock 'n' Roll

Musicians have created some great music, allegedly under the influence. But, since music depends on timing and rhythm, it’s a wonder that composers get anywhere. In Psychology Today, V. Krishna Kumar, Ph.D., reports on a study by G. Shafer and peers who concluded, “Cannabis produces psychotomimetic symptoms, which in turn might lead to connecting seemingly unrelated concepts, an aspect of divergent thinking considered primary to creative thinking.” In short, it makes artists think outside the box.

Heart of Rhythm

Select cannabis strains will increase cerebral blood flow (CBF) to the frontal lobe, the heart of creativity. It may also explain preferences in music. Loud, rhythmical beats with echo and reverb space time widely while listeners relax in the open spaces, that same place where improvisation happens.

“Reggae music works in this way,” Mojo Morgan, of Grammy Award-winning reggae group Morgan Heritage and co-founder of Golden CBD Enhanced Alkaline Water and Masaya CBD Oil brands, told me. “Reggae music opens the mind to ideas, philosophies and truths that don't always come to the natural mind. The right groove and message in the music truly enhances the experience of a cannabis user.” 

Loss of Perspective

The classic enjoyment of music calls for listening to the discipline and logic of forms, but cannabis invites users to connect with the irrelevant, subtle and unformed. Likewise, it facilitates the visualization of sound, rhythm and harmony. Under the influence you might see pulsating colors rather than geometric designs or the color spectrum. 

Maximizing Your Listening Experience

The most potent THC-heavy strains risk missing the music experience altogether. If you're thrown into panic, hallucination and paranoia, you will miss the fun. If, however, you opt for strains with a creative mix of sativa and indica, you can modulate your music experience with time and your taste in music. 

  • Blue Dream: This hugely popular and balanced hybrid makes everyone’s lists. The 60 percent sativa and 40 percent indica strain offers two percent CBD against up to 24 percent THC. It produces a significantly euphoric head high with compensating bodily relaxation. It rushes to change the user’s sense perception, amplifying colors and sounds and increasing appreciation of art and music. 

  • Bubblegum: Bubblegum goes with pop music, including Katy Perry, Taylor Swift and countless boy bands. Happy music wants users to get up and dance. A balanced hybrid, it is widely popular for its taste, aroma and prize-winning background. Bubblegum can trigger creative energies. 

  • Green Crack: Festival fans favor Green Crack because it leaves you energetic yet focused throughout the day and night. A sativa-dominant hybrid, it packs 15 percent to 25 percent THC. Also known as Green Cush, it has a direct and lasting cerebral effect with uplift, focus and energy. 

  • Jamaican Dream: This sativa-dominant strain (90 percent/10 percent) serves up 15 percent to 23 percent THC for a fast-hitting cerebral buzz, with an uplifting mood and light euphoria. It quickly relieves pain, depression and fatigue. You’re left with a clear mind and focus enough to roll with the reggae rhythms. 

  • Master Bubba: Another 50/50 hybrid, it promises six percent THC and one percent CBD. It keeps you quite focused if a little sleepy. Users recommend Master Bubba for listening to the lyrics in old school hip-hop. 

  • Space Queen: The 50/50 hybrid delivers 15 percent THC for a fully relaxing experience with joy and comfort, a total relief of stress and fatigue. Some say it will get you up and dancing, but others let it knock them back for relaxed listening.

Making Music with Cannabis

Sativa and sativa-dominant strains generally provide the balance between uplifted mood and mellow relaxation, but it takes experience to find the strain that works best for your preferred listening pleasure.

You’ll also find that cannabis taken in forms other than smoking takes some personal research and experimentation to match your cannabis and music selection. If you're the pothead who just plays music louder with every toke, this is not for you. Nevertheless, exploring the relationship between cannabis and music has its own rewards. 

Photo credit: Wikimedia/The Come Up Show

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