The evolving customs and norms of cannabis use are explored by Brooklyn-based author Andrew Ward in The Art of Marijuana Etiquette, his new release from Skyhorse Publishing. In the book, Ward delves into the rules surrounding consuming cannabis in social situations, be they large parties or informal smoke sessions, relying on his personal experience as well as input from a cadre of potheads, casual consumers and cannabis professionals.
A rich and complicated cannabis lore has evolved over the millennia the plant has been used by humans, with spiritual and mystical contexts adding to the mystery of the herb. Heap decades of prohibition and the resulting stiff penalties on top of that, and the whole experience can take on an aura of secrecy and intrigue ripe for ritual and custom.
That environment fostered a body of cannabis etiquette to facilitate the distribution of a banned product while protecting participants from legal consequences. Other social rules, including the well-known adage “puff, puff, pass” (taking two hits on a joint before passing it around the smoking circle), were created to ensure all the heads in a group get an equitable share of the stash. But as legalization expands and the stigma associated with marijuana diminishes, cannabis rules can be relaxed and focused on making sure everyone has a good time.
“At the end of the day, the cannabis community is more about sharing,” says Ward. “It’s about community, it’s about making people feel comfortable, you know, coming out of it better.”
The Art Of Scoring Weed
The Art of Marijuana Etiquette also explores the process of obtaining marijuana, from both licensed sources such as dispensaries and delivery services as well as unlicensed dealers. In either case, Ward says that communication is key to a good business relationship. Today’s cannabis retailers, even illicit ones, often have a selection of marijuana products that can seem overwhelming to the uninitiated. Sharing what effect you are looking for or the types of products you have been happy with in the past can help you and your budtender or dealer come to a purchase decision that’s right for you.
Ward says that for most of the points of etiquette mentioned to him during his research, most had wide acceptance from those he solicited for input. But whether to tip cannabis dispensary and delivery workers, both licensed and underground, had the community evenly divided.
“That was a real 50/50 split in the industry, where some people were very adamant about tipping their underground delivery people, and then some people were very against it,” the author says. “And it was actually the same replicated thought in the dispensary space, too. So, I came away learning that that one is a very up in the air subject.”
While Ward was in the process of writing The Art of Marijuana Etiquette, news broke of the Covid-19 outbreak that was sweeping the globe. The pandemic had an immediate chilling effect on social gatherings, but sales of licensed cannabis spiked as businesses in the industry were designated as essential and the restriction-weary public looked for an escape. The pandemic has also had an impact on cannabis norms, but whether they will persist remains to be seen.
“At the very least, it’s temporarily going to change things,” Ward says. “It could potentially change things for the long haul,” perhaps making the open sharing of joints in a social situation a rare occurrence. Or as vaccination rates increase and illnesses decline, marijuana culture could revert to some semblance of what was once normal.
Legalization And Cannabis Etiquette
The continuing legalization of cannabis is also affecting how cannabis is used and viewed. Ward notes that the marijuana reform bill passed this year in New York makes smoking cannabis legal anywhere that cigarette smoking is allowed. But just because you can do something doesn’t necessarily mean that you should, so etiquette must come into play if we’re all going to get along.
“I can smoke anywhere I want, but I try not to smoke anywhere near a school or where I might see a pregnant person or a child or an animal. It’s a whole shifting world,” says Ward. “And we’re all going to have to account for it because cannabis really is a part of so many people’s lives.”
The Art of Marijuana Etiquette also covers other aspects of social cannabis use, including tips for hosts throwing a pot-friendly gathering and guest attending them, legal issues, and aspects surrounding dating, relationships, and sex. Sections on consuming in public and in nature are included, as are a glossary of common marijuana terms and a reference highlighting cannabis policy in countries around the globe.
Although in some circles adherence to marijuana etiquette is strongly encouraged if not strictly (or perhaps good-naturedly) enforced, Ward takes a more laissez faire attitude towards smoking out with friends. In the end, what works for any particular group is really what matters.
“It’s constantly evolving and there’s a real importance to the old-school rules and we don’t want to lose them entirely,” he says. “But at the same time, it would be kind of foolish to hold on to these rules that really don’t matter all that much anymore.”
In the end, cannabis etiquette isn’t that different from getting along in just about any other social situation. You should be fine if you treat people the way you’d like to be treated, and if in doubt, refer to what Ward refers to as the Main Rule:
“Don’t be a dick.”
Andrew Ward’s The Art of Marijuana Etiquette: A Sophisticated Guide to the High Life from Skyhorse Publishing is now available for purchase online.