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November 17, 2020
Why Does Weed Make You Laugh?

BY JESSICA CASTILLO

Photo: Getty Images

It’s a scientific fact that almost everything is funnier after you smoke cannabis.

Really. 

But that’s not because lighting up necessarily changes what you find funny, or magically imbues you and your friends with the kind of comedic timing that could land you a job on Saturday Night Live. Instead, what makes you laugh when you’re high has a lot to do with the way cannabis interacts with and impacts key parts of your brain after it enters your system. 

How does smoking weed affect your brain? 

As Dr. James Hamblin explained for Vulture, consuming cannabis increases blood flow to key parts of your brain, some of which just so happen to be the ones associated with laughter. (Scientists have spent centuries trying to figure out why we developed the ability to laugh, as well as the science behind why people find different jokes funny.) 

But that’s not the only way weed makes its mark on your brain when you smoke or otherwise ingest cannabis. “The better part of the answer is probably that it elevates your entire mood and, thereby, inclines you to laugh more,” Hamblin said. “That’s done less through changes in blood flow patterns and more through release of neurotransmitters,” which happens when the cannabinoids, such as THC and CBD, bind to cannabinoid receptors in your brain. 

Those receptors basically “unlock” different kinds of highs, such as head highs and body highs, as Dr. Tory Spindle previously told Ember. There’s not a whole lot of research yet as to how and why these compounds, as well as the terpenes found in cannabis, impact your brain, but there’s more than enough evidence to show that it does. As Hamblin noted, “THC binds to the cannabinoid receptors, thereby activating the mesolimbic system and causing your brain to release dopamine and endorphins,” which are the same compounds you feel when you’re in love or after you just finished a really hard workout. Basically, you’re going to feel really, really happy. And laughter is a key sign of happiness. 

Why is everything funnier when I’m high? 

It’s not necessarily that things have gotten funnier after you consume cannabis — it’s that your threshold for what you consider funny gets demonstrably lower. Basically, it’s not me, it really is you

As Timothy Fong, a psychiatry professor who works with the UCLA Cannabis Research Initiative, told Mic, cannabis impacts the front part of your brain, which is associated with controlling your behavior. And because laughter is a bodily reflex more than it is an emotion, “that altered state makes the reflex [to laugh] more likely to be triggered,” he said.

That means that things you might not find as funny as you would when you’re sober are suddenly hilarious, and things you wouldn’t find funny at all have a greater chance at making you laugh. 

That is also due in part to the way cannabis lowers what Dr. Mitch Earleywine, who teaches at SUNY Albany, called the “threshold for surprise,” Thrillist notes. The surprise of a punchline or other funny element is what makes you laugh, so if your standard for what surprises you is lowered, you’re going to find everything that much funnier.

Hamblin also noted that there are probably other factors that enhance your likelihood of laughter when you consume cannabis. “We know that laughter is ‘contagious’ and that people are more likely to perceive things as funny when they are in an environment where there is laughter (as opposed to silence),” he said. Given that people often smoke or consume in a social setting, it’s understandable that they’d be more disposed to laugh around friends who might also be high. It’s also cyclical: If your friends laugh, you’ll be more likely to laugh, which will make them laugh harder, which will… you get it. 

Do some strains of cannabis make me laugh harder than others?

There are plenty of strains that promise to make everything seem funnier, a claim that is often in their name. And as Dr. Spindle previously told Ember, that promise could serve as something akin to a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

The phenomenon is called the expectancy effect: Basically, if you anticipate that a certain strain of cannabis is going to make you react a certain way, there’s a good chance that it will. “It might be the case that different types of cannabis produce different effects because there are a lot of different compounds in cannabis,” Dr. Spindle said. “But in terms of saying, ‘this is what causes that’ — it’s hard without a controlled study to say there’s not some expectancy effects going on.”

So the next time you’re in a bad mood or looking to laugh extra hard at a Seth Rogen movie, pick up a strain that is touted to make you giggle — it just might do the trick.

Ready to have a laugh? Try these euphoric products:

Pure Beauty Babies Sativa: Known for their strong cannabis, a few hits of this sativa-dominant pre-roll will definitely get you rolling on the floor in laughter.

Kiva Camino in Pineapple Habanero: Spicy and sweet, this gummy features 5mg of THC, ideal for a Zoom catchup with friends.

A Golden State Woods: Founder Nishant Reddy says this is one of his favorite flower strains from his brand and once you try it, you'll see why — it's not only a smooth smoke, it'll get you in the right state of mind.

[statemade] nv joy drops: Like its name says, a few drops of this tincture under the tongue will fill you with joy.

Heavy Hitters Pineapple Express disposable vape: What's a list of funny cannabis products without the one most people associate with giggles? The hybrid dominant strain is just the thing to accompany a funny movie.

WYLD Rasberry Gummies: With 10mg of THC per gummy, they'll get a good buzz going.

Verano G6 Jet Fuel Pre-Rolls: Reviewers love this sativa-dominant strain for its ability to make them feel happy, upbeat, and chipper. It's a great daytime smoke.

Encore Edibles Milk Chocolate: What's better than chocolate to cure a bad mood? THC-infused chocolate obviously.

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