Does Cannabis Use Make Employees More Creative?

Topic(s): creativity, job performance
Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology (2022)
Article: Cannabis Use Does Not Increase Actual Creativity but Biases Evaluations of Creativity
Authors: Y.T. Heng, C.M. Barnes, K.C. Yam
Reviewed by: Katherine Facteau

An increasing number of U.S. states have begun to legalize cannabis use and organizations will have to consider what this will mean for the workplace. For instance, there is a common belief that cannabis use is beneficial for work outcomes such as improving creativity. In two unique experimental studies, researchers (Heng et al., 2022) reveal how the relationship between cannabis use and workplace creativity is more nuanced than previously thought.


The researchers recruited light cannabis users to participate in two experimental studies. Participants were not instructed to use cannabis; the research instead relied on participants’ typical cannabis use. The treatment condition consisted of people who had used cannabis in the last 15 minutes. In the control condition, participants abstained from cannabis use for 12 hours. Participants completed a creativity task where they were instructed to generate as many novel and useful ideas as possible for a given scenario.

Contrary to their predictions, the researchers found that cannabis use was not related to actual creativity (scored by independent raters). However, the sense of joy elicited from cannabis use was related to heightened self-evaluations of creativity and heightened evaluations of others’ creativity. Thus, the authors conclude that cannabis use has a biased effect on creativity, whereby cannabis users perceive themselves and others as more creative than they might actually be.


Organizations should consider how cannabis use might influence aspects of jobs involving creativity. Based on their findings, the researchers suggest organizations be wary of situations where employees may need to evaluate the creativity of ideas. If employees have used cannabis, they might provide biased estimates that could be costly for organizations. If jobs involve a high level of creativity, organizational leaders might want to take steps to ensure employees are sober for these tasks.


Heng, Y. T., Barnes, C. M., & Yam, K. C. (2023). Cannabis use does not increase actual creativity but biases evaluations of creativity. Journal of Applied Psychology, 108(4), 635–646.

Image credit: istockphoto/Olga Novikova