Chea Waters Evans

Lizzie Post. Photo contributed.

At the dinner table, it’s considered proper manners to pass the food counter-clockwise, to the right. Lizzie Post, etiquette expert and co-president of the Emily Post Institute, wants people to know that when one is passing a joint, those rules don’t apply. Though pot is usually passed to the left, “It can go in any direction,” she said, “As long as you don’t take it back immediately.”

This advice and more is covered in her new book, Higher Etiquette: A Guide to the World of Cannabis, from Dispensaries to Dinner Parties. Post grew up in Charlotte and currently lives in Burlington.

With Vermont’s recent end to cannabis prohibition and legalization of the plant in several other states over the past few years, Post applies the regular principles of etiquette to the sometimes-confusing pot culture. It turns out that the guidelines that apply to regular life also apply to getting high: respect, generosity, gratitude and sharing. As anyone who’s ever been at a party with pot smokers knows, it’s generally an inclusive, genial group that usually embraces the idea that the more, the merrier.

“As an etiquette expert, I love that ‘kind’ is a word for good bud,” she said. It exemplifies the spirit behind cannabis culture and the etiquette surrounding it. On the practical side, that means using common sense and graciousness when you’re sharing with others. In her book, Post addresses everything from how much to chit-chat with your cannabis delivery person (no need to talk forever, a simple hello and a thank you is fine), to how to address the issue with the parent of your child’s playdate (ask permission to ask questions about their usage, and if you’re uncomfortable, offer to host the kids at home or at a playground).

If you are a first-time cannabis consumer, the language and rituals surrounding its use can be overwhelming and intimidating. Post said there’s no need to feel embarrassed or nerdy about asking questions. “Cannabis enthusiasts are really excited to share,” she said, adding that the positive vibes associated with pot use apply to cannabis etiquette. “I try not to overcorrect someone who’s new—it’s not fun,” she said. Generally, she writes in the book, it’s best to avoid such faux pas as burning a joint unevenly, spilling bong water, or dropping and breaking someone’s favorite pipe.” If an unfortunate event occurs, though, she said, a sincere apology and honest attempt to remedy the situation is always the right thing to do.

The book also contains a handy glossary of terms, as well as a primer on how to consume with others. There are also tips on who smokes first, how to politely decline, and when and where it’s best to save your cannabis consumption for later or make your usage a discreet activity. There’s also a helpful tip for pot smokers whether they’re new or have decades of experience: “Dude, I’m so high: There’s talking about how high you are because you are just amazed by it and then there’s talking about the kind of high you’re experiencing. Both are mind-blowingly awesome for the person experiencing it but less awesome for those who are hearing it if it gets repeated over and over again.”

Along with sharing the high, germs can get shared along the way, too, and she said it’s good form to do your best to avoid getting your spit all over a bowl or vape pen or joint. “It’s gross,” she said. “No one likes a soggy joint.” If you feel the need, it’s okay to discreetly wipe the end of a pen or bowl or to burn the bowl a bit and let it cool before passing it on. Sometimes, though, it’s an occupational hazard, she said.

Respect, Post said, is the key to a fun and relaxed cannabis experience—much like in any other social situation. Being aware of others and their preferences, using polite language, picking up on social cues, and being generous of spirit are important in everyday life, and that courtesy extends to cannabis consumption. Post notes, “Different tokes for different folks.”