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Bob Dylan – Music, Counterculture, and Cannabis

bob dylan
Written by Joseph Mcqueen

“But opium and hash and pot–now, those things aren’t drugs. They just bend your mind a little. I think everybody’s mind should be bent once in a while.” – Dylan on Playboy Magazine

The 1960s were a time of incredible music, important political movements and amazing psychedelic drugs. Jimmy Hendrix and the Beatles were doing their thing, the civil rights movement was empowering and acid was being passed around like never before. People were beginning to look into the eyes of the ruling establishment and ask questions. People were beginning to look at the world in a different way.

People were beginning to listen to Bob Dylan. With 95 singles, 12 released albums and an incredible singer-songwriter ability, Dylan is undoubtedly one of the greatest ever. His career spanned over decades and, surprisingly, he’s still alive today. But could he have done it without cannabis? Dylan’s love for cannabis is well documented and, just like many musicians before and after him, he was aware that music and cannabis is the perfect partnership. So let’s take a look at how Dylan and cannabis worked together to create something very special. 

Artists, celebrities, and eclectic types have been using cannabis to enhance their art forms for decades. The counterculture of the 1960s was especially known for this type of progressiveness. For more articles like this one, as well as exclusive deals on flowers, vapes, edibles, and other legal products, make sure to subscribe to The Delta 8 Weekly Newsletter. We’ve got great deals for delta-8 THC along with delta-9 THCTHCVTHCPdelta 10HHCTHC-O, so go ahead, and check out our always-updated selections.

Bob Dylan’s Career 

Bob Dylan was born in 1941 in Minnesota. Back then, his name wasn’t Bob Dylan. It was in fact, Robert Zinnerman. But he changed his name to Bob Dylan after his favourite poet: Dylan Thomas. 

“Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

Perhaps it is this quote from Dylan Thomas’ poem that has kept Dylan alive into his 80s, despite so many musicians around him perishing. 

Bob Dylan had a plethora of idols to choose from when he decided to become a musician, however Elvis was seen to be his favourite. So he picked up a guitar, grew out his hair, and began to play. He began playing folk-music all around his town and it wasn’t until 1961 that he got his big break and signed his first recording contract. However, his first album – named ‘Bob Dylan’ – wasn’t a success. But then came a new figure. Not Bob Dylan; the young inexperienced musician. But instead, Bob Dylan; the political activist. 

Bob Dylan; the Political Activist 

Bob Dylan was inspired by the civil rights movements and the ways in which America was changing. Martin Luther King and Malcolm X were two of many that were leading African Americans in protests against the Jim Crow Laws and the way they were being mistreated in 60s America. The promise to black people in the USA of ‘separate but equal’ was far from the truth. Separation was most definitely occurring, but equality couldn’t have been further from reality.  

Bob Dylan began writing music about what he saw in America. He wrote songs about turmoil, about unrest and, of course, he released his third album in 1964: The Times They Are Changin’. His songwriting was new and refreshing. He filled his songs with so much message and narrative. He was able to insert so many lyrics into his songs, so that each song felt like a story. He played at many music festivals, stood against injustice, and gained huge amounts of popularity.

Bob Dylan Now

Some cynics would say that the best thing to happen for any musician’s popularity is for them to die just after their peak of popularity. However, Dylan didn’t. Unlike the likes of Jeff Buckley, Jimmy Hendrix and Kurt Cobain, Dylan is still living and breathing. Whilst his music is perhaps less relevant than it used to be and his era has definitely been and gone, his legacy will never be forgotten. In addition, the albums and singles he writes now feel like a nostalgic trip to the past rather than a desperate attempt to be relevant again. So whilst Dylan’s voice may not be the same as it once was, and his music not as poignant to some, it’s still an absolute joy to have him around. 

Cannabis & Music 

So the question still sits lingering on everyone’s lips: what’s the connection between cannabis and Dylan? Well, first of all, it’s important to understand the relevance of cannabis in 1960s America as a whole. The truth is, America was a melting pot in the 60s. 

1960s America 

Whilst many images of America in the 60s show hippies, colour and drug-enthused joy, the reality was actually pretty bleak. The Vietnam War was unjustly killing hundreds every day, both Kennedy and Martin Luther King were assassinated, there was the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the Civil Rights Movement was trying to fix something that was so broken and ingrained into society that all hope seemed to be lost. On the news every day you’d see images of an African American being brutally attacked or murdered by a while policeman or civilian. It was a scary time. 

However, as is the case with all detrimental moments in history, beauty came from it. People joined together, regardless of the colour of their skin, and stood against the establishment. This rebellion came in many forms. It came in the clothes people wore, it came in the places people went, it came in the words people spoke, it came in the drugs people smoked and it came in the music people listened to. Dylan was right in the forefront of this. He was combining political music with the beauty of cannabis. 


Cannabis stood for something more than just what it was. It stood for a political movement; the same way that a colourful shirt did, or a tie-dye shirt, or a Bob Dylan song. Lots of things were grouped together to stand against the way that America was being run. Therefore, cannabis and the mind-opening wonders of THC were political. Similar to how Jazz music and cannabis came hand in hand, so did Dylan and cannabis. It isn’t just weed’s illegality that makes it the perfect drug to be part of political movements. It’s also – much like acid – the perfect drug because of how it makes people feel. The effects of THC include euphoria, feeling like your mind is opening, feeling close to those around you and being accepting. It isn’t a coincidence that cannabis has been a part of essentially all political protests in the 21st century. 

Bob Dylan and Cannabis 

Bob Dylan loved cannabis from the beginning. In a Playboy Magazine article Dylan said:

“I wouldn’t advise anybody to use drugs–certainly not the hard drugs; drugs are medicine,” he answered thoughtfully. “But opium and hash and pot–now, those things aren’t drugs. They just bend your mind a little. I think everybody’s mind should be bent once in a while.”

He knew of the mind-bending qualities of cannabis, and loved the way it worked with his music writing. In fact, in 1964 he met The Beatles for the first time and supposedly introduced them to cannabis. They’d never tried it before and Dylan ensured that he opened their eyes to the beauty of THC. He didn’t hide his thoughts on cannabis whatsoever. In his hit song ‘Rainy Day Women #12&35’, he proclaims proudly: ‘everyone must get stoned!’

Dylan did get into harder drugs of course, due to his excessive time on the road. However, he understood the difference between good habits and bad habits. That’s why in 1969 he told Rolling Stone co-found Jann Wenner: ‘I was on drugs, a lot of things. A of things just to keep me going, you know? And I don’t want to live that life anymore’. This was supposedly just as he was trying to kick a heroin habit. It seemed Dylan understood that everything works best in moderation. Whilst cannabis may be harmless, heroin and harder drugs can be harmful. Dylan’s best friend was cannabis, not the other drugs. 

420: National Weed Holiday

Funnily enough many people have claimed that the name for 420 – which is the national cannabis holiday that occurs around the world every year on the 20th April – was first originated from a Dylan song. Dylan’s song ‘Rainy Day Women #12 & 35’ has created many theories as 12 multiplied by 35 equals 420. In addition, in the song he does tell everyone to get stoned. So, perhaps that is where the cannabis holiday name ‘420’ comes from. It might sound ridiculous, but weirder things have happened. It’s clear that Dylan and cannabis have a special connection, and perhaps this is the final one. 


Dylan was and is a fantastic musician with a career that spans over a full lifetime. Like many before him, he found his way of utilising the wonders of cannabis throughout his career. The truth is, Dylan and cannabis have a special connection and one that benefits all of us that get to listen to his music now. Are you a Dylan fan?

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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.