Why does marijuana make you laugh?

Why does marijuana make you laugh?
Max Sargent

Cannabis can crack us up sometimes. A brief exploration into aspects of laughter, its origins, and why we tend to laugh when we smoke cannabis.

Smoking cannabis can sometimes make you laugh about whatever. Some stuff just seems a lot funnier when you’re high. Some people have the chuckles each time they toke up, and some people just can’t seem to stop smiling. Sounds familiar?

Cannabis has this marvellous way of enhancing everyday life.

Let's talk Neuroscience. The CB-1 receptors located in your… Just kidding.

Simply put, cannabis tickles your brain, and it metaphorically quivers and jolts. Sometimes you are on your knees hysterically gasping for air, other times you are couch-locked and grinning to yourself. Other times you may find yourself contemplating absolutely nothing with unparalleled concentration and focus.

But what is it about cannabis that makes us inflate the nonsense-bubble into a massive balloon that transports us so very high into the realms of the sillies?

Like this:

The gradual acceptance of medical Cannabis these recent years has finally started to produce some substantial laboratory evidence. Which is just absolutely fabulous! But neuroscience simply can’t explain this phenomenon. To better understand why we laugh we really must dig a little into the realms of consciousness.


Laughing is thought to have a profound ancestral origin, dating back thousands of years, way before we were living in caves and trees. Just like lions show their teeth and roar, dogs and bears growl, or gorillas grunt (or almost every other large carnivore out there) we used to show teeth as a form of fear and aggression. The sound level is just an audible indicator of how much.

What happens when you get infuriated? You bite down hard and retract the lips. Eventually, you are pushed over the edge and may even shout. Laughing is basically this, but with a twist! In some weird way, the same mechanism evolved and morphed into this whole new thing.

We smile to start showing acceptance to others. From there we scale-up all the way to letting go and laughing. Showing teeth and making loud noises usually happens in the company of others as a sign of bonding.

Laughter is a form of non-verbal communication and contrary to popular belief, not an exclusively human thing. Throughout the animal kingdom evidence of laughter has been found in numerous mammals, from primates to rats, and as with humans, usually laughing is associated with tickling, play and general daily interactions.

Another interesting thing about laughing is that when we laugh we tend to open up our defenses and just let go. However, when we get hurt or need to protect ourselves from harm, we cross our arms and roll up into the fetal position, right? Laughing is a sign you feel comfortable in your surroundings and your mind is at ease.

It is therefore theorized that laughter may have a deep subconscious link between the showing of teeth (fear/aggression) and the exposure of confidence. And that when we explode into laughter on the couch and end up rolling on the floor grabbing our tummies, we are merely subconsciously defending ourselves from those tickle attacks we suffered as kids. Kind of weird, but makes sense somehow.



In our fast-paced society, we are always alert. Even more then back in the days when we needed to fence off predators in the wild. Advertising, traffic lights, traffic itself, city noises, the 9 to 5 grind, your neighbor blasting shitty pop music at ungodly hours, guns and explosions dominating our media… All of that doesn’t help.

We are taught from a young age to be on top of your feet from the time you wake up until you drop to your sleep. This is not natural at all. Our bodies were made to be highly active and alert to hunt and for defense, the rest of the time to contemplate and imagine.

Marijuana is brilliant at turning down this ultra-alert mind-set instantly. When you use cannabis, your “alertness force field” is switched off and you it can become easier to relax.

Smoking some weed in good company and laughing go hand in hand. It is a show of affection and friendship. Without cannabis, you would probably laugh just the same, but it’s Just that being high increases the probability of it happening and heightens the overall funnyness of things.

In any social context, if you smoke pot, you are automatically invited by the group just to let go of your day-to-day defense mechanisms. You unbind yourself from the “normal” state and can change your mutual lens of perception for a bit. It can sometimes even let you embrace the “whatever dude I’ll do that tomorrow” state of mind and just live in the moment for a bit.

It is in these precious moments that great insights into the most insignificant and mundane of things are observed, and candidly shared with the world. No one feels embarrassed, everyone laughs together, and great friendships are forged.

Even with a complete stranger, if suddenly you both burst into laughter, you are sending each other a social queue, a sign of mutual understanding. Social ties are made. Being high on weed usually helps a lot with this, and possibly a primary reason for its mass adoption as a social thing to do. Marijuana does an excellent job at making people chill.

We can always argue that weed stimulates the pleasure centers, that changes in dopamine release rate balance of serotonin reuptake and several other biochemical analyses – but on the baseline, laughter is a primal thing. Cannabis just gives it that extra spark.

Why the level of silliness increases is yet to be explained by science.

Max Sargent
Max Sargent

Max has been writing about cannabis and psychedelics for several years now. With a strong belief that an open, honest attitude toward drugs and drug policy can improve the lives of many, he seeks to offer insightful and developed opinions on the subject.