High on Art: Artistic Integrity and Marijuana Use

In light of Oregon decriminalizing the recreational use of Marijuana on July 1st, I’ve had some good discussions with art friends about the use of pot when making art, and decided to write out my thoughts on the subject. I am first and foremost drug free, and I admittedly soapbox against the use of recreational drugs (caffeine aside) in the creation of fine art. Here’s why:

First let me say that I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the use of medicinal substances to benefit a lifestyle in a way that allows people to be more productive, feel happier, treat chronic pain or illness, and overall enjoy themselves. As a medicinal substance, people will need marijuana to cope with issues I am lucky to not have. However, one cannot walk into a doctors office and complain of a lack of creative inspiration and walk out with a prescription for mind-altering drugs. 

My issue is with a dependency that develops for many artists to summon inspiration when they can’t just be honest with themselves and get their life right. I think what many artists find is that their greatest inspiration and ideas unravel out of just that struggle to find, and face, the self. 

My argument is that in the creative world, there is a threshold that can be crossed where the dependency on a chemical substance - pot, heroin, caffeine, pills, etc - begins to negatively impact the author’s ownership over the work. If one simply cannot claim to be a successful artist without the use of a controlled (or uncontrolled) substance, then they are compromising authenticity, and ultimately lying to themselves and others who appreciate and purchase their work. When this happens in the world of fine art, music, dance, etc, ones ability to express themselves honestly is lost and the work loses credibility, and worse- perpetuates the debilitating label continually placed on creative arts as an inferior profession for druggies, stoners, and all-around slacker culture. 

I was told by a frequent marijuana user working in a creative field that people take art way too seriously. In response, I’ll say that I think people take a need to escape their reality way too seriously, but saying that art is being taken too seriously is like saying lawyers take the law too seriously, or that an architect takes load-bearing walls too seriously. Art is a valid profession, and it is especially hard to make it in an industry that values artists less because art is still seen as a “talent” or a hobby that anyone with a blunt and a sketchbook can get into. We work hard, and HELL YES art should be taken seriously. 

What I’m getting at is that art will always be tied to self-expression, and appreciated for that. If one depends on a drug that compromises who they are because they think people won’t like the real them, then they’ve got a lot more problems to deal with than just not feeling inspired. Artists have to lead by example. It’s our job to feel, to fear, to fail and to be honest. We are one of the last professions that still values individuality, and what does it say if we can’t even be our real selves?