You’re here because you love cannabis. Or perhaps you’re just curious about it.
(Or, maybe you hate it with a furious passion and are reading this only to elevate your sense that you are far superior to “those dirty pot-smoking hippies.”)
As you probably know, the United States is in the midst of a major transition toward cannabis-friendly policies after decades of demonization, criminalization, and the futile “War on Drugs.”
This is spectacular news for those of us who see cannabis as a medicine with numerous benevolent properties.
Cannabis has proven effective in treating a laundry list of physical and mental ailments — everything from anxiety and insomnia to chronic pain and cancer. Some sources have gone as far as to call it a “medical miracle.”
The astounding evidence in favor of medicinal marijuana raises an important question:
Is cannabis valuable only as a treatment for those who are sick?
Marijuana’s specific medicinal applications are impressive, but in championing them, we should note that cannabis is also one among a number of substances that, if used responsibly, can facilitate “the betterment of well people.”
That is, even if you are not sick in any clinical sense, cannabis still has gifts to give you — gifts that can improve and augment your life permanently.
So, in order to fully utilize cannabis, it’s important that we raise awareness regarding the benefits cannabis can provide to healthy people.
Let’s take a look at some of those benefits, shall we?
1. Food tastes better and more complex.
Part of the reason why the “munchies” are so irresistible whilst stoned is that food is just SO DAMN GOOD. It’s as if you can taste every nuance of the glorious interplay of ingredients. In his famous essay on cannabis, renowned astrophysicist Carl Sagan wrote that,
“The enjoyment of food is amplified; tastes and aromas emerge that for some reason we ordinarily seem to be too busy to notice. I am able to give my full attention to the sensation. A potato will have a texture, a body, and taste like that of other potatoes, but much more so.”
The obvious way that this improves one’s life is by providing a heightened and more joyous eating experience.
Beyond that, though, the near-transcendent deliciousness of food while stoned can leave one with a deep sense of amazement and gratitude that something simple as a nectarine could be so holy and bliss-inducing.
This can translate into a lasting gratitude for the simple wonders of day-to-day life and an increased ability to really savor food and drink and other such forgotten pleasures.
And thus one begins to see that one need not hoard wealth and acquire lavish material possessions to be happy. A deep dish pizza will do just fine.
2. Cannabis creates deep bonds between people.
We tend to view “rituals” with skepticism nowadays, but for millennia, social rituals have been integral bonding mechanisms in human groups.
The ritual of smoking cannabis with peers is one of an ever-fewer number of modern rituals that retain the almost-magical capacity to break down individual barriers and allow for vulnerability and deep connection.
Anyone who indulges cannabis knows that most people have a certain reverence for the process of breaking up or grinding some cannabis, rolling a joint or packing a bowl, and passing the auspicious artifact around a circle of peers.
One can also take things a step further, treating the ingestion of cannabis as a kind of sacred ceremony. As my friend Martijn said to me recently,
“Creating a ritual where one invites the cannabis consciousness — a certain style of relating to oneself and others — into one’s world, and having a certain reverence for the possibilities the newfound altered state of consciousness can bring, gives a certain direction to plant medicines, a certain holiness and respect to this Other who can give us so much.”
This approach seems like a kind of neo-shamanic approach to cannabis, and I do recommend it. Try to approach cannabis from a place of gratitude, reverence, and openness, inviting the cannabis consciousness to share its benevolence. If that’s a bit too ‘woo woo’ for you, no worries. You don’t need to view cannabis in this way to enjoy its boons, and if you indulge cannabis yourself, you know that rituals develop around cannabis regardless of how one views the plant.
As in other rituals, there are common rules that one finds in many places worldwide. “Puff, puff, pass” signifies the rule that one should hit the joint no more than twice before passing it to the next person. There’s also a general rule that one should “keep it rolling” by hitting the herb immediately upon receiving it, as opposed to letting it burn while telling a story or something. There’s also a spirit of “pay it forward” present in much of the cannabis community, in that many people abide the rule of always sharing their supply with anyone who wants to enjoy, in trust that that person will do the same, and so on and so forth.
Without going into too much detail, suffice to say that when people engage in the cannabis ritual together, they become closer. Some of my greatest friendships began with a shared fondness of late-night cannabis reveries. One can easily find oneself having long, winding, earnest, deep conversations that feel totally revelatory and precious.
REAL INTIMACY AND VULNERABILITY. That’s what happens. And do not underestimate the power of real intimacy and vulnerability. Some argue that the tragic lack of genuinely intimate relationships in our alienating modern world has resulted in widespread despair and depression.
(Nuance: since I’m talking about smoking cannabis, I feel I should mention that smoking anything in excess is not particularly good for you. Smoke in moderation, and you’ll be cool. Look into other methods of ingesting as well.)
3. Music sounds groovier and more interesting.
This point is something of a corollary to the previous one. Music is THE ABSOLUTE SHIT when you’re stoned. One is able to hear the distinct instruments and intricacies of a song with greater clarity, and the music’s capacity to provoke deep feelings and pleasurable sensations seems amplified. Again, from Carl Sagan:
“A very similar improvement in my appreciation of music has occurred with cannabis. For the first time I have been able to hear the separate parts of a three-part harmony and the richness of the counterpoint. I have since discovered that professional musicians can quite easily keep many separate parts going simultaneously in their heads, but this was the first time for me. Again, the learning experience when high has at least to some extent carried over when I’m down.”
It’s important to note Sagan’s insistence that the deeper appreciation for certain things that he gains while high carries over when he’s down, to some extent. In my experience too, cannabis can unlock new levels of gratitude that remain accessible when I am sober, refuting the myth that one gets stoned and then needs to continue to get stoned to tap into the benefits.
Sagan also notes that cannabis allowed him to develop a greater appreciation for all art, not just music. And so it is that cannabis pushes us to appreciate the works of the imagination and of the creative side of humanity.
Again, realizing that strumming an old guitar can be as soothing and soul-filling experience as any, one begins to see less reason to work one’s life away in the service of amassing funds for gaudy trinkets and elaborate vacations.
One also begins to reorient away from mindless consumption toward a place of artistic celebration and creation. This spirit of creation over consumption aligns well with the aim of reducing our human impact on the Earth.
4. Imagination and divergent thinking increase.
“If you don’t smoke cannabis, you may spend your evening balancing your checking account. If you do smoke cannabis you may spend your evening contemplating the causes of the Greek Renaissance.”
— Terence McKenna
With characteristic wit, Terence McKenna sums up my point here. Over time, we develop ingrained patterns of thought and behavior that threaten to become empty routines sapping us of vitality and curiosity.
Cannabis allows us to break out of our normal thought cycles and routine behaviors into a more contemplative and imaginative state of mind.
This effect of “breaking the cycle” may begin to explain the efficacy of cannabis in the treatment of anxiety or depression — disorders characterized by endless loops of intrusive, destructive thoughts.
It should also be noted that in allowing individuals to liberate themselves from normal patterns of thought and behavior, cannabis results in increased curiosity and divergent thinking in the general populace. Few would argue that we aren’t in need of more curious, innovative minds to help address the cultural, economic, and environmental crises presently faced by humanity.
Please don’t misconstrue me as saying, “IF WE ALL JUST SMOKED WEED WE WOULD BECOME GENIUSES AND KNOW HOW TO SOLVE ALL OUR PROBLEMS.” I’m merely saying that cannabis seems to unlock latent potentialities for creative and divergent thinking, and that this must be seen as a welcome effect in a world in which traditional ways of thinking have resulted in widespread poverty, massive income inequality, environmental devastation, and other crises.
5. A simple sofa can be a gift from heaven.
This, again, is related to my whole spiel in points #2 and #3 about how cannabis can heighten appreciation for aesthetic or sensual experiences or life in general.
But I’ll say it another way because THIS POINT IS FREAKING IMPORTANT.
Being grateful for what you already have — accepting the present conditions of your life as totally sufficient and supple — might actually be the key to everlasting happiness.
Lao Tzu, a Taoist sage who was around way before Jesus, thought so:
“Be content with what you have;
rejoice in the way things are.
When you realize there is nothing lacking,
the whole world belongs to you.”
6. The familiar looks somewhat foreign. The common may seem surreal.
To perceive strangeness or arbitrariness or suchness in ‘ordinary’ things like humans or carrots or iPads is, I think, an imaginative ability that countless visionaries across history have cultivated, but which the majority of people do not explore.
While stoned, one might find oneself pausing on a walk to take a long look at a flower or an insect on the ground. One might examine one’s own hand or stop and wonder exactly how in the fuck humans invented refrigerators. Things that typically seem innocuous suddenly take on a new dimension of intrigue.
This quality of the cannabis experience is related to my explication above on curiosity and divergent thinking. When what is normal becomes abnormal, one sees the world in a different way and begins thinking and questioning in ways one has not previously.
7. Blasts of euphoria and giddiness.
Sudden bursts of giddiness or ecstasy. Those are pretty cool. They don’t happen all or even most of the time when one indulges cannabis, but when they do, it’s further icing on an already delectable cupcake.
Sometimes you actually feel an overwhelming fuzzy energy surge through your body, waves of rapture reverberating through all the crannies of your being.
Other times everything just becomes inexplicably hilarious, and you find it difficult to stop laughing at the ridiculous actuality of existence.
What’s crazy is that these images would probably disturb a large portion of the populace. We have been conditioned to see ecstatic, blissful experiences as abnormal, anti-social even — indicators of lunacy or unpredictability.
But really, what the fuck is the point of going through the rigmarole of life if you’re never going to lose yourself in the sheer joy and euphoria of existing? To be alive! My God! To be alive!
Cannabis is certainly not necessary to bask in the rapture of being, but it sure as hell can help.
(Nuance: there is also, of course, such a thing as too much cannabis. Particularly when dealing with edibles, some people consume too much and spiral into paranoia, having a “bad trip.” Some people also just react poorly to cannabis and can’t really enjoy it. Be sure to indulge responsibly and in moderation to maximize the chance of rapture and diminish the chance of a shitty experience.)
8. A sense of silliness and playfulness emerges spontaneously.
“We are offered entertainment every second of the day but lack the chance to play.”
— Charles Eisenstein
Somewhere along the trudge from childhood to adulthood, most of us lose the ability to be spontaneously silly and playful.
This is a shame because nonsense “wakes up the brain cells,” as Dr. Seuss put it. Silliness and play are liberating experiences in which we temporarily shed our Serious Mask of Adulthood and remind ourselves of the children that yet lurk somewhere deep within us. Playing around vitalizes and reinvigorates us, makes us laugh and appreciate what’s right before our nostrils.
Play and silliness are ways of celebrating the innate possibilities of any moment — possibilities to run, jump, make animal noises, take on strange personas, invent things, break things, etc. Seeing more possibilities is, of course, also related to imaginative and divergent thinking. You can begin to see how a number of these points are interrelated.
9. Creative inhibitions slip away, and one feels free to invent worlds.
Closely related, I think, to the increased ability to be silly and playful whilst stoned is the ability to be more creative.
The commonality here is that getting stoned can release multitudes of inhibitions, allowing one to see certain rules of existence and selfhood as more permeable and bendable than before.
This allows for more creative speech and action in the form of play, as well as an increased ability to express creativity via artistic mediums. Drawing, writing, painting, or making music while stoned is decidedly different than doing those things while sober.
Cannabis simply makes one see everything slightly differently. And that’s not to say that one will make better art while stoned. Just that it will be fresh and that cannabis might be an interesting means of experimenting and unlocking new creative directions.
And, if you don’t think you’re creative at all and don’t typically make any sort of art, cannabis might just be the key to unlocking an entirely new dimension of human experience. For many, making art is meditative, cathartic, self-revealing, and healing.
You know The Dude, right? The guy on The Big Lebowski who is infinitely chill and calm in the face of life-destroying circumstances?
Well, I posit that part of the reason for The Dude being such a chill-ass guru figure is that he smoked copious amounts of cannabis.
Nearly everyone who smokes cannabis immediately becomes way more peaceful, calm, and chilled out. Many things that present themselves as “problems” while sober become simple conditions of existence that can easily be forgotten or accepted.
(Nuance: of course, the stereotype of the irresponsible stoner isn’t entirely baseless. Sometimes people eschew personal growth and ignore real responsibilities to those around them in favor of toking, treating cannabis as an escape. The aim should be to utilize cannabis not to escape, but to find the ability to flow with whatever is happening, facing the imperatives of one’s life with patience and equanimity.)
Very few things are even remotely upsetting because one sees that getting upset is like entering a drama storm when one could instead chill in a stress-free meadow of relaxation.
Because of this quality of cannabis, a few friends and I have sometimes espoused the admittedly radical theory that the human race would be better off if everyone smoked cannabis regularly. Who in the world would have time for war, hostility, division, animosity, and murder after catching a righteous buzz and sinking into an armchair to watch reruns of Dragonball Z?
I’m only partially kidding.
11. The wondrous and sacred nature of existence becomes more apparent.
Did you know people were smoking cannabis for religious purposes long before Buddha was born?
Well, they were. Just take a look at this impressive list of cultures throughout history in which people used cannabis for religious, spiritual, or shamanic purposes.
Because cannabis has been used in this context, it is considered an entheogenic substance. “Entheogen” means “generating the divine within” and refers to the capacity of certain substances to occasion mystical or spiritual experiences.
Yes, folks, that’s right. In addition to all of those other marvelous capacities of the cannabis plant to enhance the well-being of well people, weed can also HELP YOU FIND GOD.
I’m not talking about “God” in the sense of a celestial grandfather who watches our every move, of course. Maybe I’m talking about a secular feeling of sheer, soaring wonder and bliss in the face of the sublimity, grandeur, majesty, and impenetrable mystery of the cosmos, or something.
Now, this isn’t to say that you can just go smoke some bud and become a conduit for the divine. However, try hiking into a forest or up a mountain, sparking up a joint, and getting really quiet sometime and see if you don’t begin to understand what I mean.
This last point might be the most important of all, as there is arguably no greater experience of human life than a rapturous communion with the Interpenetrating Oceanic Wild All, or whatever you’d like to call it.
Beyond that, experiencing the universe as sacred tends to result in the viewpoint that all sentient life is sacred and deserving of kindness. In other words, COMPASSION results. And if there’s one thing this mad rolling world can always use more of, it’s compassion.
There you have it: 11 compelling reasons why indulging cannabis can be a healing experience, even if you aren’t ill.
So, you know, go meet up with some friends, spark up some Bob Hope, and gaze, slack-jawed, upon the stars for a while.
After doing so a few times — even if you thought yourself to be in perfect health — I think you might feel a new kind of “health” beginning to blossom: the health of creativity, sensitivity, openness, imagination, equanimity, and peacefulness.
Those things all sound pretty swell to me. And hell, as we transition from a world of domination and division to one of togetherness and partnership (with each other and the Earth), those qualities are arguably much-needed. If transforming the world begins with transforming ourselves, and if the conscientious use of cannabis enhances and deepens our individual lives in the ways I’ve described, then it seems fair to say that the conscientious use of cannabis can help the world at large.
Here’s hoping that the recent cases of state-level recreational legalization of cannabis in the US indicate that the tides are shifting toward saner global policies surrounding this miraculous plant that has aided mankind for millennia.
A final sentiment of Carl Sagan’s captures the essence of this essay and seems like a fitting note to end on:
“The illegality of cannabis is outrageous, an impediment to full utilization of a drug which helps produce the serenity and insight, sensitivity and fellowship so desperately needed in this increasingly mad and dangerous world.”
Studies of Interest
This article focused more on the subjective experience of ingesting marijuana and the oft-obscured benefits of cannabis consciousness that compel millions of people worldwide to enjoy the drug.
If you’d like to research this topic from a scientific perspective, there have been some interesting studies in recent times that you ought to know about:
- Study that found that cannabis had no effect on IQ
- Study that found that long-term cannabis smoking is not detrimental to lung health — “In a large cross-section of U.S. adults, cumulative lifetime marijuana use, up to 20 joint-years, is not associated with adverse changes in spirometric measures of lung health.”
- Study that found that cannabis use is associated with reduced risk of bladder cancer in males
- Study that found that cannabis was effective in treating neuropathy pain in people with diabetes
- Study that found that cannabis relieved symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease