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Jazz Music and Cannabis: A Beautiful Romance

cannabis jazz
Written by Joseph Mcqueen

“Life is a lot like jazz…it’s best when you improvise”

If you’ve ever found yourself in a dimly-lit, beaten down jazz bar, watching improvised musicians jamming their hearts out, then you’ll know what it’s like to fully experience the magic of jazz. Jazz music frees your mind, it helps you reach a state of flow, and it doesn’t care about making mistakes. In fact, there are no mistakes, only notes. Does this sound like anything else you know? Cannabis and jazz aren’t just similar, they’ve actually had a spiritual connection for a lot longer than people realize. Both have been marginalized, both have been championed by the African American community, and both have had attempts made to control and appropriate. So what makes cannabis and jazz the perfect, but most heart-breaking, romance in history? 

Cannabis and art go hand in hand. Be it music, painting, writing, sculpting, or whatever your artistic muse may be, marijuana is sure to give you that creative boost to get you right in the zone. For some of the best legal products on the market, make sure to subscribe to The Delta 8 Weekly Newsletter, your hub for all things cannabis-related as well as exclusive deals on hemp-derived Delta-8 THC, Delta-9, Delta-10, thcv, thc-p, thc-o & even hhc.

The Personality of Cannabis

Before we can fully understand the relationship between cannabis and jazz, we must first understand the personality of each of them. The cannabis plant has over 100 cannabinoids and roughly 400 total compounds, meaning there is a lot of variety and individuality from one plant to the next. When the cannabis buds are extracted from the plant, this individuality continues further. The two most prominent and spoken about cannabinoids – THC and CBD – can fluctuate percentages from one cannabis flower to the next. A high percentage CBD bud will have very different effects than a high percentage THC bud. Just like jazz music, every session you have with cannabis is different. 

Many people like to split cannabis into three main categories. Healthline writes:

“Indica, which originates from the Hindu Kush mountains of India, is believed to have a relaxing effect on the user. Sativa has a more energizing effect, while hybrid is a combination of the two.”

However, recent studies indicate that there aren’t really many substantial differences between indica and sativa strains, the real variation lies in the terpene profiles and combinations of other compounds in the plant. Also, these categories don’t take into account the likes of CBD products, or cannabis concentrates, which both also add to the many effects cannabis can have. Furthermore, some scientists have gone on to say that splitting cannabis into categories is essentially pointless due to the fact that the effects cannabis can have is also down to the individual and their own response to the substance. 

THC is the most common psychoactive compound in cannabis that allows the user to get ‘high’. This means that it alters the mental state of the user. The cannabinoid enters the bloodstream when inhaled, and travels to the brain where it influences how the brain receptors communicate with the body. This is what causes the various different experiences that people have when they consume THC cannabis. For example: euphoria, heightened senses, concentration, giggling, munchies and so on. 

Similarly, the state of flow, which many musicians aim to reach when playing, is a mind-altering state. The state of flow is caused when a person becomes fully immersed in an activity, and forgets the concept of time. It’s this combination of flow and THC that first created the true romance between jazz and cannabis.

The History of Cannabis

The history of cannabis is a lustrous, lengthy one that could take years to fully comprehend. However, it’s possible to concentrate it down to a few main pivotal moments. 

The use of cannabis, mostly as herbal medicine and in religious rituals, is thought to have begun in Asia in around 500 BC. It’s also believed that the Ancient Egyptians would heat up hemp seeds on hot rocks and inhale the smoke during their own ceremonies. 

However, it was through imperialism and European dominance that the cannabis plant began moving through Africa, into Europe, and eventually the Americas. It was here, in America, in the 20th century, that cannabis was used as hemp materials for clothes and resources. In fact, hemp seeds were also used for food. At this point, cannabis was completely legal, however the levels of THC within the hemp was lower than the usual cannabis bud now. 

In the early 20th century, cannabis was rarely used for recreational purposes. However, when immigrants from Mexico began arriving in the USA in the early 1900s, they brought with them the concept of recreational use of cannabis. This was a pivotal moment in cannabis’ history. Due to the Great Depression – which was caused by the stock market crash of 1929 – America was riddled with unemployment and poverty. As with all major events in history, America needed someone to blame; and it was the minority groups. Mexicans and their ‘evil weed’ were shunned and by 1931, 29 states out of 50 had made cannabis illegal. However, it wasn’t just the Mexican population that were thrown in with the new ‘dangerous weed’ façade, it was also African Americans. African Americans in the USA were also portrayed as misusing drugs and causing crime throughout the country – neither of which were true. The divide and conquer method was certainly being used by American officials. 

Therefore, cannabis – whilst once being utilized and accepted – had become weaponized and criminalized. But what about jazz?

The Personality of Jazz

Louis Armstrong – one of the greatest jazz musicians to ever live – once said, ‘if you have to ask what jazz is, you’ll never know’. Him, like many others before and after him, understood that jazz wasn’t something to define, but it was something to experience. Trying to define jazz music is like trying to hold on to a bar of soap; it’s impossible. It is not something you can define easily, but if you were forced to then perhaps you’d say that jazz was.. 

American music developed especially from ragtime and blues and characterized by propulsive syncopated rhythms, polyphonic ensemble playing, varying degrees of improvisation, and often deliberate distortions of pitch and timbre”

Jazz music is improvised, which means it’s all about understanding that failure does not exist. There is no right or wrong. There are only notes, which are either played or not played. Of course there is technique and insane amounts of skill when it comes to jazz, but the best jazz artists are the ones who are fully able to let themselves be free and be without constraint. They reach that state of flow that was mentioned earlier. Whether it be vocals, piano, double bass, trumpet, saxophone, drums or any other jazz instrument, the same ethos applies throughout: you have to feel it. 

The History of Jazz

If you look back through varying genres of music, a case can be made that jazz started a long time ago. However, popular jazz began in the USA in and around the 1920s. Harlem, in New York City, was known to be the birthplace of jazz, with some of the greats taking the stage and playing there: Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington and many others. Jazz music was a means of expression for the marginalised African American community who had been enslaved by the American’s only decades before. Although slavery was not legally still in place, segregation and racism was rife within the US and it was jazz bars in Harlem where the marginalised Black people were able to express themselves and feel accepted.

Nina Simone, who was one of the greatest jazz singers to ever bless the world, said that jazz music was and is ‘black classical music’. Whilst white culture has Beethoven and Bach, black culture has Coltrane and Parker. Through jazz, African Americans were reclaiming their history and heritage. 

It is not surprising that the majority of white America highlighted their distaste in jazz. Many publications were released in retaliation to jazz music in the 1920s; titles like: ‘unspeakable jazz must go’, ‘the jazz problem’, and (possibly the worst), ‘why jazz sends us back to the jungle’. The American establishment couldn’t handle that the black community was creating their own identity. If jazz music could have been illegalized, it probably would have been. Instead, African Americans were demonized and jazz music was not truly respected by the whole world until later in history.

Jazz & Cannabis – Final Thoughts

Cannabis and jazz not only have similarities in their history, but they have also. both met on several occasions. Many jazz musicians – including Louis Armstrong – were known to enjoy high THC cannabis as they jammed out. They even named themselves The Vipers. The Vipers were a group of jazz artists who championed cannabis as the jazz drug of choice. They loved the way cannabis could compliment the art of jazz, with its effects. They called themselves the Vipers, as it represented the sound that occurred when they inhaled a joint. At this point in time, both jazz and cannabis were shunned by society due to their so-called ‘connection’ with minority groups. 

So, are you beginning to see the similarities between cannabis and jazz? Both jazz and cannabis were born from natural things, but were then berated by society for not conforming to establishment ideals. Both cannabis and jazz were promoting the concept of freeing the mind, which for many of the world’s most powerful, was a very dangerous idea. A free mind may cause an uprising against the top 1% of society. 

Jazz music and cannabis have stood the test of time. They are a beautiful romance. They both took all that was thrown at them and now, at least by the majority of people, they are both accepted and adored. 

However, in regards to cannabis legalization, there is perhaps still a long way to go. 

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About the author

Joseph Mcqueen

Joseph is a cannabis journalist in the UK. His search and love for the truth in the cannabis industry is what drives him to write.