“Etiquette is the science of living,” said Emily Post, who wrote the 1922 book that is still the prevailing tome on the topic. ”It is the code of sportsmanship and of honor. It is ethics.”
That book, Etiquette: In Society, In Business, In Politics and At Home, provides guidance on the correct length of cloth for an afternoon tea table, the proper way to sign a condolence card, and why it’s uncouth to offer a bride “congratulations” for securing a husband. (Extend your best wishes instead.) Post also references the polite enjoyment of cigarettes and cigars. “There is not a modern New York hostess, scarcely even an old-fashioned one,” she wrote, “who does not have cigarettes passed after dinner.”
The grande dame of good manners was silent, however, on how to properly react if a person passed you a joint that was burning quickly and—egads!—unevenly, or offered you a “dab” from a tabletop rig.
Cannabis, of course, was not typically offered in the early 20th century smoking-rooms where cigars, liqueurs, and coffee were enjoyed into the evenings. But today, as legalization takes hold, we’re all increasingly likely to find ourselves in social situations where the plant is present—and now, it might be smoked, eaten, imbibed, vaporized, dabbed, or even absorbed through one’s skin. To the uninitiated, smoking pot can be an intimidating social undertaking. There’s equipment involved and open flames, not to mention the risk of getting oneself into a state—stoned, paranoid, giggling, etc.—where socializing can become a challenge unto itself.
Never fear. Post’s 36-year-old great-great-granddaughter Lizzie is here with her own soon-to-be-definitive book of manners: Higher Etiquette: A Guide to the World of Cannabis, from Dispensaries to Dinner Parties. This pot primer is at once authoritative and approachable, filled with answers to the sorts of questions that might make a newbie feel like a nerd.
For those whose stoner schooling stopped at puff, puff, pass, there is now a literal guidebook. And it’s good. Post—who works with her relatives to maintain their ancestor’s legacy with the Emily Post Institute—writes with humor and grace, combining basic principles of “higher etiquette,” including respect, generosity, gratitude, and sharing, with technicalities of today’s newfangled age of cannabis consumption: What, again, is “dabbing”?
She also makes suggestions that position her as a sort of stoner mega-hostess: If you’re passing joints at a dinner party, consider finger bowls—finger bowls!—of water on the table, in case someone needs wet fingers to troubleshoot a joint that’s running, or burning unevenly. (The book taught me this problem is also called “canoeing.”) One gets the feeling Post comes by this role honestly.
With an embossed gold title on a pale green twill-textured cover, Higher Etiquette looks like it belongs on a coffee table alongside a mid-century modern brass ashtray, and perhaps a hand-glazed ceramic one-hitter. It comes out March 26, and would make a lovely gift come 4/20.
Herewith, some tips from Higher Etiquette for indulging in places where cannabis consumption is legal, with “sportsmanship and honor.”
DO: corner the bowl
When passing a pipe the old-fashioned way, it’s kind to “corner” the bowl of packed buds as opposed to “lawn mowing” it. This means one should light the bowl at an edge, saving some fresh green for everyone in rotation, rather than blazing the flames across the top and blackening the entire bowl.
DON’T: Bogart the joint
Fun fact: “Bogarting is a term derived from the way Humphrey Bogart would just let a cigarette hang out of his mouth, not seeming to actually smoke it.” Don’t do that. Writes Post: “‘It’s not a microphone.’” Pass it!
DO: Hit a blunt three times before passing
“As opposed to the standard two hits off a joint.”
But proceed with caution. Post warns that the tobacco leaf wrapper on a blunt (also known, she tells us, as an “L, dutch, dutchie, philly, cannon, bluntski, B, Bleezy/Bleez-e”) contributes to an intensified high. This is all from a section about “cannon-specific courtesies” that’s delightful for its incongruity.
DON’T: “Chaz the banger”
Dabbing consists of dropping a cannabis concentrate (a dab) onto a heated element and inhaling water-cooled vapor through a glass chamber. This process employs an apparatus known as a rig, which is designed for temperature precision and likely to be pricey. “Chazzing the banger” is slang for scorching the heated element, also known as the “nail.”
Dabbing is intense—in terms of both equipment and results—so tread carefully. Post also advises that rig owners “be mindful of newbies and help them to not overdo it,” and that guest dabbers ask before touching a rig, listen to the owner’s suggestions in regards to specific heating times or temperatures, and, you know, “avoid chazzing the banger.”
DO: Label cannabis-infused foods at get-togethers
Post suggests a descriptive label such as: “African Queen macarons: positive and relaxing head-high.” She also recommends a separate spread of non-infused foods, for those who aren’t partaking in the cannabis items, and so that no one overdoes it on the edibles as a result of the munchies (a vicious cycle, indeed).
DON’T: Talk about crossing state lines with cannabis at a dispensary
They might have to ask you to leave.
DO: Tip your bud-tenders and delivery people
If you’re unsure whether a driver is allowed to accept a tip, just ask. With both bud-tenders and delivery people, think of food-service as a model.
“As with all regular service providers,” says Post, “you should consider your regular delivery person during your holiday thank-yous.” (Maybe they’ll hook you up with a holiday gift too!)
DON’T: Ask the delivery person to stay a while
This is a legal business now, and they’re at work!
DO: Be the host with the most (communication)
Overall, Post emphasizes that communication is key, especially in the new age of legalization, when comfort levels about cannabis vary widely. Let people know what to expect in your home: Is it 420-friendly? Do you prefer smoke—or, as Post calls it, “combustion”—to happen outdoors, and if so, where?
If you’re hosting houseguests, Post suggests letting them know the aforementioned protocols, in addition to alerting them of any “house stash” (properly labeled, of course) to which they may help themselves, and pointing them to local dispensaries.
As for parties, “you set the standard in your own home,” writes Post. “It’s up to you to make decisions and then communicate them clearly and kindly to your guests when you issue your invitation.” Homegrown to burn? BYO? Just let your guests know.
And remember, a finger bowl for every table.