“Puff, puff, pass”; everybody knows the rule. Take your portion and send it along – don’t Bogart that joint. Cannabis is meant to be shared, a truth universally acknowledged. Whether it’s ganja on the beaches of Goa or bud on the slopes of B.C., the protocol is always the same: ask and ye shall receive. Even in a 4 AM parking lot outside the rave, surrounded by a cast of characters on any conceivable fuel whose faces you’ve never laid eyes on, a polite request to join the rotation is almost never rebuffed by the rules of weed smoking etiquette. No matter who you are, or where you’re from, everyone seems to understand this inherent principle – to the delight of empty-handed smokers the world over. If you disagree, stop reading now…
Of course, this cannabis code and weed smoking etiquette hardly extend to our other chemical pursuits. Alcohol might be the nearest common cousin; its communal flow is evident enough. As anyone who has ever hosted at least one party can attest, our willingness to share booze increases in direct proportion to our inebriation. What might have been “your” two-six of elegant mezcal at 9 PM inevitably fills every shot glass in the kitchen by the stroke of midnight. Will they appreciate its tender balance, its smoky dance on the palate? Who cares? You no longer give a shit – and they never did. It’s sweet sweet booze, and that’s what punches the ticket.
Cocaine, on the other hand, seems to operate on an inverse scale. Lots to go around at the start of the night, and the mood is jovial. It’s Oprah in Medellin: you get a bump, you get a bump, everybody gets a bump! But supplies dwindle, and paranoia sets in. Is she really interested in what I’m saying, or does she just want a line? Thieves! Leeches! A bit exaggerated…or maybe not. In any case, your hypothetical 4 AM parking lot maneuvers would surely find a lot more resistance.
While these are far from the only seasonings in the spice rack, they’re certainly the most common – your salt, pepper, and chili powder – and therefore the easiest to examine in terms of their social treatment. In particular, we can see relationships between one’s compulsions of need, and the substance in question.
At the start of a session, drinkers are loathed to share their own supplies; “I don’t know, I think I might need all thirty-two of these beers to do the trick tonight”. A drinker anticipates, indeed expects, a certain level of inebriation in their not-too-distant future – and they’ll fend off all manner of supplicants to secure it. It is only later in the evening, when the goal is within reach (if not already achieved), that the drinker can lower their defenses. And while there is usually only one such hurdle to clear with alcohol, cocaine’s fleeting shelf life makes it a constant requirement. You may as well be running the 400 meters, clearing the hurdle every few steps around the oval of your Saturday night.
Cannabis enjoys a much more relaxed relationship with the user. Rare is the foam-flecked, bulging-eyed hippie – “I NEED more POT!” If the joint comes along, wonderful – if it doesn’t, well, that’s just fine too. Of course, cannabis’ narcotic effects play a major role in social settings; while a surplus of tequila may lead to events spawning infamous tales, too much marijuana only leads to the pillow, a goal not sought after until the dying dregs of the early morning. So while a shared joint can induce feelings of communion and camaraderie, the simple fact might just be one of stamina: we’re not yet ready to fall asleep.
Even so, this communion can’t be ignored. Alcohol can make friends out of strangers, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a hiker or surfer bringing along a “mickey” to enhance their adventures. Cannabis engenders a sense of connection to our environment, to that which is outside of us; trust and love for the external, which by default must include those people around us, sharing our time and space. The walls around the individual break down and the conception of self begins to extend further than one’s own skin. Passing a joint is not just an act of, “getting high” – it is an invitation, conscious or otherwise, to participate in a more compassionate reality.
Acknowledgment of this reality is perhaps the reason we have “weed smoking etiquette” OR “weed rules” in the first place. We want to help each other out – and we want to do it right. It can be said that heavy smokers value of compassion when toking, but place honesty just as high on the totem pole. Those acting purely in self-interest are not welcome in a public sesh, because we assume that you will not trick us…and if you do, you will not find yourself in the next circle, a polite but firm expulsion all but certain.
It is this trust in the group that validates the social codes of cannabis use; a tiny joint can work around a much larger circle than what might be reasonable because everyone implicitly accepts their responsibility in leaving enough for everyone else. It is also generally understood that one will not ask another to produce cannabis for them, particularly if the seeker does not already know they have some; this will emerge in its own time, and then it will be shared and enjoyed by all.
Trust in the observance of weed smoking etiquette, of the equality in that inherent respect. A village mentality, perhaps – one that predates the obsessive individualism of today. Small wonder that those hysterical squares of the ‘50s and early ‘60s saw socialism in the “Reefer Madness” sweeping their nations. Selfless love for one another – they heard it from the pulpit on Sundays, but could not understand it. They had lost (or forgotten) their ability to connect with one another, regardless of age or race or orientation; something that cannabis has always enabled and encouraged.
So don’t Bogart that joint, friend. Sharing is caring, and caring is sharing. We’re social animals, after all – and a whole lot happier when we act like it.