When I was in college, I would call up my pot dealer from a pay phone and ask him for “one chicken leg,” which was the secret phrase for a joint (that sadly didn’t come close to the size of a chicken leg). Never would I outright ask for weed. That would have been a gauche no-no and strictly against the cannabis code at the time.
Many old-school tokers will recall the mantra “puff-puff-pass,” which curtly explains how to share a joint when smoking in a group. In other words, don’t take your time; puff twice and hand it along.
Cannabis culture has changed dramatically over the years as the weed-etiquette rulebook continues to be written and rewritten.
Most cannabis consumers not fortunate enough to live in states with legal pot programs have developed the skills to buy, ask for, share and find cannabis, and to get by in the weedy underbelly of illegal pot.
But now that cannabis is recreationally and medically legal in many states, a slew of new questions and dilemmas about proper pot behavior have cropped up. Is it okay to give weed as a wedding gift? Is it copacetic to vape in church? Can I offer my friend’s grandma an edible to help her glaucoma?
These and more concerns come to mind, so I reached out to some experts, including weed aficionados, ganjapreneurs, writers, and imbibers to ask them how to put one’s chillest foot forward in this brave new world of growing cannabis acceptance. Here is what I discovered.
Is It Cool To Talk Openly About Pot?
“Many people are looking to come out of the ‘canna closet,’” explains Jonathan Teeters, general manager of the CBD division at Azuca, a cannabis and CBD edibles company.
Teeters recommends sussing out common ground and branching out from there.
“Try starting by sharing a story about your parents’ stance on the power of CBD or how the NFL is reconsidering its views on medical cannabis,” he explains. “Centering it on a subject like parents or the NFL doesn’t shine the light right on you and your particular cannabis preferences, but creates a way to start a conversation.”
David Schmader, author of Weed: The User’s Guide, feels that pushing people to admit details about their private relationship with cannabis is an iffy area to tread into.
“Pressing on personal usage is dicey, except among actual friends,” he explains. “For medical-marijuana users, the question ‘Do you use cannabis?’ isn’t about their social lives, it’s about their medical lives, which many people like to keep private.”
In today’s cannabis landscape, weed isn’t just a “naughty hobby” anymore, it’s a bona fide medicine. It’s kind of bizarre to think about it like that if you grew up with it in a different era, saw friends serve jail time or even served it yourself. But it’s helpful to think of cannabis as medicine going forward, in addition to however else you might think of it.
Should It Be Assumed That Everyone Is Using Cannabis?
In a landscape where weed is rapidly becoming legalized in many of the places it had been previously outlawed for so long, it’s not crazy to assume that everyone is an avid appreciator of our favorite plant.
Leslie Siu, CEO of Mother & Clone, a company that specializes in sublingual cannabis products and accessories, agrees.
“It’s inappropriate to assume they don’t use it,” she explains.
Yet Siu believes there are some environments where discussing or using cannabis could be considered out of line.
“My kids’ preschool at drop-off is not an appropriate place to use cannabis,” she muses, then adds, “and talking about it in front of my Bible-thumping in-laws would be a bad idea.”
However, Siu was taken aback to discover the positive results that came from using cannabis at her doctor’s office.
“It’s been surprisingly okay,” she tells me. “[The staff] treat me like the doctor and ask questions.”
When asked if it was acceptable to use cannabis at church, Siu gives the thumbs-up. “Just do it discreetly,” Siu suggests.
So It’s Okay To Use Cannabis In Church?
Shedrack Anderson, host of the TV show The Daily Chil With Shedrack, on Amazon Prime, and founder of the cannabis-oriented skincare company Chilyo, feels church is not a place in which he’d personally be comfortable using this particular one of God’s creations.
“I wouldn’t,” he explains, “though I respect the Rastafarian movement and other [religions that incorporate cannabis].”
Anderson elaborates, noting that though he doesn’t follow a religion, he respects them all. “I don’t want any of their gods mad at me!”
According to Kris Krane of 4Front Ventures, a company that specializes in cannabis business branding, “Basic respect and decency would dictate that you respect the rules someone sets in their own home, and the same would apply to a place of worship.
“If you really want cannabis to help you feel closer to God,” he continues, “or just get through a long service, consider an edible before you arrive.”
Resorting to edibles is a reasonable solution for any get-together where you’d like to partake in cannabis but perhaps it wouldn’t be kosher to break out a bong and start pulling tubes—before Thanksgiving dinner with the family, at a work-related event or when you’re being dragged along to something that you know is going to be dry and boring.
But be forewarned—edibles can pack a punch.
Experimenting with them in advance is never a bad idea, as you don’t want to find yourself unexpectedly, unbelievably high at an inopportune environment.
Should Pot Be Given As A Gift?
Anderson feels cannabis wouldn’t make an appropriate formal gift, as he views it as a pharmaceutical.
“Cannabis is a medicine,” he explains. “Would you offer your wedding guests aspirin as a gift? No. You would only offer medicine if someone needed it.”
Kelley Bruce, founder and president of cannamommy.org, a website that helps connect parents to medical cannabis and information (and all the experts I spoke to), agrees that cannabis has no place in schools—say, for example, as a gift to a teacher or for use on a school campus.
“Bringing a controlled substance into a federal school is still very much illegal. I would not recommend that,” Bruce warns.
“Weddings are private events,” she continues. “If you want to provide cannabis to the bride and groom and are within the state laws, do what you want, and invite me!”
She also gives the seal of approval to presenting cannabis as a holiday gift. “As long as you’re within state laws, I would love to get cannabis from my Secret Santa,” Bruce enthuses.
Siu agrees with the general consensus about pot and presents, stating, “Cannabis is not a good gift idea for teachers or cops.”
How Much Should You Spend On A Pot Present?
Corey Mangold, CEO and founder of Orchid Essentials, a vape and accessories company, says, “Gifting cannabis is an increasingly popular thing. If I’m going to buy some cannabis for someone, the price to spend on cannabis is just the same as if it were another gift. For example, for my parents for Christmas, I might spend $100 on cannabis as a gift, but for a casual friend, I might spend $20 to $40.”
Of course, if the person receiving the gift is you, Mangold advocates being extra generous. “If I’m gifting it to myself, definitely at least $300!” he says.
John Oram, founder and CEO of NUG, a cannabis-concentrates company, notes that cannabis is expensive in California. “Retail customers can see taxes as high as 40 percent,” he shares. “A typical consumer spends about $65 per transaction. You should expect to spend close to this amount for a gift.”
Siu brought the expected spending down to a more thrifty number, explaining you could aim for just “$5 or more.” She explains: “Showing up with a joint is always a cool move and very appreciated. You can always go fancy, but all weed is a nice gesture!”
As the lines of communication open and expand with further legalization lending to the shaping of the culture that develops around cannabis, we will surely see these and other cannabis social rules and guidelines bend and change even more in time.
Uncertainty Surrounding The New Rules Of Weed
If you’re not sure of the correct way to proceed when you encounter a sensitive cannabis issue, use common sense. You can use the existing laws as a guideline as well. If you’re not sure what those laws are, do your own research. Read up on cannabis if it is of interest or concern to you. Ask a friend; nearly everyone has a buddy these days who is working as part of a weed start-up.
And if you’re still not sure how to proceed, do what feels comfortable to you.
If your comfort level lies outside of the realm of all that may yet be legal, just, you know, don’t get caught.
Here are a few more timely resources to help bring your weed etiquette up to current speed:
Weed: The User’s Guide, by David Schmader
Higher Etiquette: A Guide to the World of Cannabis, From Dispensaries to Dinner Parties, by Lizzie Post
The Original Book of Pot Etiquette, by Vanessa Fimbres
Vice’s Weediquette, with Krishna Andavolu.
This feature was published in the August, 2019 issue of High Times magazine. Subscribe right here.