Survey: Many programmers consume cannabis while working for a creative boost

Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

A new study fresh out of the University of Michigan suggests that over a third of software programmers have consumed cannabis during working hours. According to the university’s researchers, cannabis can enhance creativity and transport programmers – based on their own assertions – into the “programming zone.”

Titled, “Hashing It Out: A Survey of Programmers’ Cannabis Usage, Perception, and Motivation,” the research was published last month in Cornell University’s arXiv.

Prior to the study’s execution, anecdotal evidence demonstrated the increased likelihood of workplace cannabis consumption among programmers. This intrigued the researchers, who then proceeded to carry out the “first large-scale survey” on the subject,

To gather their results, University of Michigan researchers asked 803 developers to describe in detail how the federally illegal green plant plays a role in their daily jobs. Additionally, the study explored frequency of consumption among individuals who said they’ve used cannabis during an engineering task.

One of the study’s major influences was previous reports of “hiring shortages for certain jobs” which, researchers stated, was likely attributed to strict workplace drug testing policies.

“This prohibition of cannabis use in software engineering has contributed to a widely-reported hiring shortage for certain US government programming jobs,” the study says.

35 percent of surveyed programmers have tried cannabis during their tasks

Of those who partook in this survey of programmers who use cannabis during working hours, 35 percent admitted to having “tried cannabis while programming or completing another software engineering-related task.” What’s more, the majority (73 percent) of that group claimed that their experience happened within the past year.

Conversely, 53 percent said they had consumed the plant no less than 12 times while programming, whereas 27 percent said they had consumed cannabis at least twice on a weekly basis and just four percent openly divulged their almost-daily workplace cannabis consumption habits.

A separate discovery was that “cannabis use while programming occurs at similar rates for programming employees, managers and students despite differences in cannabis perceptions and visibility.”


In order to paint a clearer picture of the reason(s) why programmers consume cannabis during working hours, the team sought to discover the most regular tasks that people participated in when under the influence. The results? Brainstorming, coding, prototyping and testing.

“Overall, we found that programmers were more likely to report enjoyment or programming enhancement motivations than wellness motivations: the most common reasons were ‘to make programming-related tasks more enjoyable’ (61 percent) and ‘to think of more creative programming solutions’ (53 percent),” the study findings determined. 

“In fact, all programming enhancement reasons were selected by at least 30 percent of respondents. On the other hand, general wellness related reasons (such as mitigating pain and anxiety) were all cited by less than 30 percent of respondents. Thus, while wellness does motivate some cannabis use while programming, it is not the most common motivation,” added the authors, who noted that 91 percent of study subjects support both medicinal and recreational cannabis legalization.

The team are satisfied that their key takeaways represent areas for adaptation in regards to job drug policies, not to mention possess the power to stimulate future research into cannabis use while programming.