The Art of Marijuana Etiquette book cover

"We've all dealt with that person who can’t control their drinking or their behavior when intoxicated. The one who gets in people’s faces with boorish behavior, then turns all defensive when asked to mellow out. It’s not fun to be around.

Believe it or not, the same can happen with some cannabis consumers. Most smokers, like most drinkers, are capable of being fully responsible. There will always be a few who missed some important life lessons, however, and if they get stoned enough, it becomes painfully obvious to everyone.

These types need a rule book, but even the rest of us can benefit from being reminded about being courteous, whether we are consuming at the time or not. This is where veteran cannabis journalist Andrew Ward comes in. The author of the popular and useful “Cannabis Jobs,” which offered advice for those seeking careers in the industry, Ward is back with a new book titled “The Art of Marijuana Etiquette,” which answers all those important questions new and longtime consumers might have about managing one’s cannabis use in socially responsible ways that won’t create enemies. It’s a useful and frequently quite funny book which will remind readers that even when high, it’s always best to uphold the Golden Rule.

Ward is an advocate for cannabis, and as such, wants consumers to behave in ways that convey a good image to nonusers whose support is needed for continuing the spread of decriminalization and legalization. He also wants smokers to be kind and thoughtful towards each other. This is what he pinpoints early on as being the essence of cannabis culture: the radical notion that respecting others usually produces good outcomes.

With that in mind, Ward offers some tips that will be helpful towards attaining this goal. Perhaps the most important is, know your tolerances. If your destination for the evening is complete oblivion, launch yourself from your living room sofa and have a wonderful journey. But if you will be around others, try to maintain in ways that keep everyone in the group happy. Or as he puts it several times, “read the room and assess the situation.” If everyone wants to get plastered, go for it. But if conversation is the collective vibe, loosen up just enough to participate, but not so much that you end up that person on the couch that your host is trying to get rid of.

Proper etiquette for both hosts and guests is the subject of several chapters at the heart of this book. Ward lives in Brooklyn, so for Alaskans, some of his suggestions will perhaps come across as a wee bit uptight, but the gist is applicable no matter where you are.

For hosts who invite people to a cannabis party, attention to the varied needs and desires of guests is paramount. Everyone has their own relationship with cannabis, and if everyone is to have a good time, tailoring to each person is important. Your old college roommate might be able to take endless hits from a kief-enhanced joint, but that coworker you invited could be something of a walking one-hit-wonder. You want to keep both of them upright and happy, both for their sake and yours. So be sure to have stronger and weaker options available. And if another guest abstains, don’t pressure them to do otherwise.

Even more important, if you are hosting an infused dinner, take extra caution to ask your guests about any food allergies or restrictions they might have, and let people know how loaded the hors d’oeuvres and other dishes are. You don’t want someone nodding off before the main course is served.

Guests need to be mindful as well. Show up “on time(ish)” as he puts it. Bring something to the gathering to share. Try not to make a mess. Don’t overindulge and crash out on the floor.

Ward covers plenty of other ground as well. He offers tips on buying for those in both legal and illegal markets. The latter is important since many Americans live in states where cannabis sales are still criminalized. They don’t want to get themselves or their suppliers busted. Ward tells people how to handle this.

One shortcoming is his discussion of how underground markets remain in states that have fully legalized. Proper etiquette would be to stick with the licensed distributors. The black market undercuts sales for entrepreneurs who have done everything by the book at great personal expense to put product in your hands, while its persistence doesn’t help the cause of legalization. He missed a crucial point there.

What Ward doesn’t miss is the importance of being responsible consumers. Much of this can be filed under “no-brainer,” but there remain people who can’t figure it out. Keep edibles away from children. Don’t get your pets high. And while he notes that he will ruffle some people’s feathers by saying it, he tells readers not to drive while impaired, and that’s good advice.

The pandemic is a continual presence in these pages, and the book feels like a quarantine project at times. He’s factoring in current circumstances, however, and reminds readers invited to a gathering that “If you’re feeling unwell, please do everyone a favor and sit this one out.” Even without a global pandemic, that’s just smart.

Be decent, Ward keeps telling us. For your own sake, that of fellow consumers, and the cause of legalization. Remember, if you act like an idiot, some will use your behavior to pass judgment on all cannabis consumers. As legalization slowly spreads, how individuals presents themselves in public has an effect on how cannabis is perceived. Like it or not, people are prone to stereotyping groups that they don’t interact with. Well behaved consumers can change people’s impressions.

So in the end the message is simple. Be chill. Respect others. Consume responsibly. Don’t be a jerk. In other words, follow the Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. It’s the stoner culture that Ward wants readers to uphold, and that’s something we could all use a bit more of that these days, stoned or not.

David James is a freelance writer in Fairbanks. Comments about this article? Contact  editor@AlaskaCannabist.com

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