Cannabis Dos and Don’ts: A Conversation with Etiquette Expert Lizzie Post

Lizzie Post of the Emily Post Institute—yes, Emily Post's great-great granddaughter—has released "Higher Etiquette," a guide to all things cannabis.
September 22, 2019, 1:00 PM UTC
Reprinted with permission from "Higher Etiquette: A Guide to the World of Cannabis, from Dispensaries to Dinner Parties" by Lizzie Post, copyright © 2019. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House.
Illustration credit: Sam Kalda © 2019

Cannabis seems to be everywhere, and it just may turn up at your next social gathering. It’s not shocking to encounter weed in places you previously reserved for alcohol: weddings, work retreats, cocktail parties, vacations, and even at children’s playdates (for the parents, of course).

With the growing trend toward legalization and decriminalization, cannabis has seen a rise in popularity. Shopping at a dispensary feels like a luxury retail experience; women’s magazines tout the benefits of topical CBD lotions; and being served ganja at a dinner party is simply another part of the menu. It leaves room for major faux pas, as people who partake regularly assume you do too.

All that brings up the question: Are there etiquette guidelines for cannabis usage?

There are, in fact, and Lizzie Post, great-great-granddaughter of etiquette expert Emily Post, is the leading voice of authority. Co-president of the Emily Post Institute and author of the newly released book, Higher Etiquette, Post has defined the dos and don’ts of all things cannabis. It may seem like common sense, but many people don’t follow basic rules: Ask before lighting up, share the goods, and know what you’re smoking so you can tell others about it. It largely happens unintentionally, says Post, because most violators aren’t aware they are making a mistake.

Fortune spoke with Post to get a sense of what you need to know about cannabis etiquette, including how to approach a difficult conversation on weed and where to put a vape pen on the dining room table.

Lizzie Post, co-president of the Emily Post Institute (EPI), holding the original guide to etiquette.
Emily Post Institute

Fortune: What are some guidelines for bringing up cannabis in any sort of social interaction?

Post: It’s always considerate to ask before lighting up. It’s going to impact the rest of the air around you and the people around you. I also like to remind people that it is your business whether you share your cannabis consumption with others. Do that in your own time and comfort and by your own judgment.

Cannabis and the workplace is a hot topic. Putting aside medical use, should someone bring up their recreational use with their coworkers?

That’s been one of the bigger questions: Do I smoke with my boss if I know that we both partake? It’s really up to you if you think it’s appropriate for the work relationship that you have. I don’t think it’s a problem, though, to offer the same way you would say, “Let’s go out for a drink after work.”

That leads to a common situation: happy hour with your coworkers. Since the rules are often more relaxed at this function, with alcoholic drinks and/or cigarettes, how do you talk about cannabis?

Treat it as any other topic of interest you have or thing that you do. You can say, “Hey, I have a joint if anyone wants to join in.” Confidently make the offer or simply smoke or vape as you do. Have the confidence and comfort level in the same way we do with drinking.

On the flip side, there are a lot of liberal companies where people are very open about their cannabis use. What if you don’t want to partake?

If you’re the person who wants to decline when everyone else is doing it, stick to basic, casual language: “Thanks, but I’m good.” You absolutely don’t have to come up with an excuse. Don’t make a big deal out of it, and it won’t be a big deal.

“Higher Etiquette: A Guide to the World of Cannabis, from Dispensaries to Dinner Parties”
Ten Speed Press/Penguin Random House

You talk in your book about cocktail and dinner parties incorporating cannabis, with weed pairings, edibles, shared joints, and vape pens. It’s almost like having a cigarette or cigar after dessert. If you want to have cannabis available for guests while entertaining, what are some general tips?

Know what you’re offering your guests and label things clearly. You don’t pour all your different alcohols into decanters and leave them unlabeled, so don’t leave jars of nugget or concentrate out without telling people what it is. It’s also nice to have a variety of options, like some form of vape, flower, joint and/or bowl. It’s funny, because back in the 1940s, you had ashtrays and cigarettes on hand; it was a part of entertaining. Now, if you’re going to have a joint, you have to bring back things like the ashtray.

That’s a great point. In the book, you also note that a host should place the vape pen in front of the place card at a dinner setting. Why is that?

It’s stylistically a good place, but also useful and practical for a guest. It has been really fun to explore questions like this and talk to people who have been throwing cannabis dinner parties for years!

Another interesting situation has to do with parenting, specifically cannabis and playdates. There’s often the stereotype of moms getting together for coffee or wine—both vices in their own right—while the kids have playtime. Cannabis may be an option too. How do you approach the topic with another parent?

Obviously, we’re not letting anyone underage smoke or be impacted by the smoke, but you want to be respectful of how someone is raising their children, even if that’s different from you. Know what your boundary is for cannabis. Rather than ask a parent outright, which can sound judgmental, ask if you can have a conversation first because of this boundary. But I do like to ask people why they have this boundary.

It’s really unfortunate that cannabis comes from a good century of negative assumptions. I talked to one mom who said she took an edible on vacation and noticed how much she was able to engage with her son. She wasn’t focused on bills or things at work—she was focused on him in the moment. It’s going to take a long time for the stigma to go away. But if you’re going to engage in cannabis within safe ranges on a playdate, offer it to the other parent too. Equate it as you would that glass of wine.

Reprinted with permission from “Higher Etiquette: A Guide to the World of Cannabis, from Dispensaries to Dinner Parties” by Lizzie Post, copyright © 2019. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House.
Illustration credit: Sam Kalda © 2019

If someone doesn’t engage with cannabis on a day-to-day basis, they may on vacation. Some aficionados even go on “weed-cations” as you call them in the book. What does a traveler need to know if that’s part of their intent in a destination?

It’s really important to know the laws. Do your research ahead of time. Make sure your accommodations are in a place where it’s going to be easy to have the experience you’re looking for. It’s actually hard to find hotels that allow cannabis, and I’m still waiting for someone to do a weed airline! But there are great “bud and breakfasts” and wonderful events that allow onsite consumption. There’s a lot to look for.

Etiquette always evolves with the times. How do you see cannabis etiquette transforming as it becomes more accepted in society?

The conversation is going to change from “How do I do this?” to be more focused on trends of the moment and how to balance that with courtesy and custom. Cannabis will be something we’ve absorbed into society the way we have the etiquette around alcohol and cigarettes. It’s a personal choice for people and let it be that. The more we can eliminate the judgment, the better we can do in terms of making each other feel comfortable, one way or the other.

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