There used to be a serious negative stigma surrounding marijuana use in the United States. As of 2020, 11 states have fully legalized the possession, sale, and use of cannabis for all adults over the age of 21, though, and many more states have legalized some form of medical marijuana. More than half of American adults have tried smoking cannabis at least once, and almost 55 million of them are current marijuana users. In other words, marijuana has gone mainstream.
Newcomers to the wild world of legal marijuana use are almost universally welcomed by veteran smokers. However, there are a few things they should know about the unspoken rules of etiquette, how to have the best experience, and what to expect as they try new marijuana products. Those who have only recently embraced the benefits of smoking weed can read on to find out about the dos and don’ts of marijuana smoking to avoid bad experiences, social faux pas, and legal trouble.
Before going into social etiquette, it’s worth discussing a few ways that novice users can avoid a bad experience the first time they smoke. Here are a few do’s and don’ts that apply exclusively, or at least primarily, to first-time users:
For those new to cannabis use, it’s best to start in a comfortable environment. Ideally, novice consumers should try it at home and should find a time when they don’t have any responsibilities or social commitments to worry about for at least a few hours. Every person who smokes marijuana will respond differently, so smoking at parties isn’t a great environment for first-time use.
It’s also a good idea to invite a trusted friend over who has more experience with using marijuana. That way, novice consumers can run any questions or concerns they have about what they are experiencing by someone who knows what to expect. Do a bit of research about the difference between consuming cannabis from sativa seeds vs that from indica seeds so that you can anticipate what the high might feel like once you start tripping.
Using alcohol and marijuana at the same time can produce some unpleasant side effects, including severe dizziness, nausea, and worse. Veteran smokers refer to this phenomenon as “cross-fading.” Those who have never tried marijuana should get used to how it feels and develop a tolerance for marijuana alone. They shouldn’t give it a shot for the first time while out drinking with friends, or while drinking at home. It’s a recipe for a bad experience. Similarly, mixing edibles with alcohol is a bad idea because it is so hard to judge when the high will hit its apex.
It’s common to hear veteran smokers talk about how they didn’t even get high the first time they tried marijuana. For some consumers, that’s a real thing, but everyone is different. Also those veterans may have been smoking weed that was 10% THC back in the 70’s. Some people have extreme responses to smoking for the very first time. Start slow and see how it feels before sitting down and smoking an entire blunt of medical-grade marijuana, which is much higher today (up to 30% THC). Many people will tell you that outdoor marijuana is considerably weaker than indoor cannabis strains, but this is not always true. Best to just take a few hits and see how the buzz is before you go all the way.
Even if everyone else in a social situation is smoking, that doesn’t mean those interested in trying marijuana for the first time have to join in. Most veteran smokers will encourage their friends to give it a try, and that’s fine, but don’t respond to those who try to peer pressure others into smoking too much or trying it in a situation that makes them uncomfortable. It’s a great way to ruin a potentially good thing.
Smoking marijuana can give people the munchies no matter how much or little experience they have with weed, so pick up some snacks in advance. Most people find that crunchy snacks like chips or hard cookies satisfy the munchies better than full meals, but those with a sweet tooth may want to stock up on chocolate instead. Having snacks stocked up in advance reduces the chances of needing to make an uncomfortable trip to the store, which can ruin a perfectly good buzz for novice smokers.
Cottonmouth is a real thing, so most smokers have no trouble remembering to stay hydrated. Keep water, juice, or another non-alcoholic beverage of choice on-hand. It will not only help with the cottonmouth but will also keep smokers feeling healthier.
As first-time smokers start to get into the swing of things, they usually like to start experimenting with new strains. Each strain of marijuana produces different effects, so do some research in advance to find out what to expect. As a general rule, sativa-dominant strains produce energizing, uplifting effects, while indica-dominant strains are more sedative. Doing some research in advance makes it easier to find the right strains and reduces the chances of having a bad experience. Here are a few suggestions of each variety that are popular for beginners:
Not all smokers clean their pieces between every session, but letting resin build up for too long can cause health problems. Leaving a resin-water filled bong sitting for a while can lead to bacterial growth, which can cause lung infections. This is unlikely to come up, but cleaning a piece between uses by removing the gross, smelly bong water is a good idea anyway since it will make the smoking experience much more pleasant.
Every group of social smokers is a little different, but there are some unspoken rules of social etiquette that apply in just about every situation. Once newcomers to the wonderful world of marijuana use have dipped their toes in the shallow end by trying it themselves at home, they can start using it as an opportunity to socialize with friends who also smoke. Here are a few things they should keep in mind:
Good things are meant to be shared, and weed is no exception. Once novice smokers start using marijuana socially, they should be prepared to bring their own stashes to the table. Those who habitually smoke their friends’ premium weed without ever sharing their own will, at best, be looked at sideways. At worst, they’ll stop getting invited to the daily sesh.
Sharing a joint, blunt, pipe, or bong with someone while sick with a contagious disease is a serious faux pas. There’s nothing wrong with rolling a personal joint to take part in the circle without putting other people at risk, and those who feel awkward about it can always explain themselves and offer up some of their own weed to the circle for other people to try. Other smokers will understand.
Some marijuana smokers who also use tobacco like to roll spliffs, which are basically joints mixed with a pinch of tobacco. Even those who don’t generally smoke cigarettes sometimes prefer this practice. Not everyone likes smoking spliffs, though, so it’s always best for newcomers to the circle to ask if they’re unsure whether there’s tobacco in a joint. Keep in mind that while marijuana isn’t physically addictive, tobacco is, so it’s perfectly fine to pass on a spliff if it means avoiding problems with addiction later down the line.
Marijuana hits better while it’s still green, so try to save this more pleasant smoking experience for others. Instead of torching the bowl all the way across the top, try to burn a smaller surface area near the corner of the bowl and suck the flame downward.
When someone hands a bowl around a circle, the expectation is usually that everyone will hit it once. Most social smokers hit joints twice before passing. Either way, it’s better to hold on to the joint, bowl, or bong for as short a period as possible before passing it instead of bogarting it and either smoking more weed than necessary or letting a lit, or cherried, bowl burn out. This will ensure that everyone gets an equal buzz.
In circles where pipes or bongs are the smoking method of choice, it’s important to pay attention to how much weed is left in the pipe. If the bowl is obviously cashed, meaning there’s nothing left in it worth smoking, just say so and pass it back to its owner. If new smokers are unsure about the state of the bowl, they can always warn the person next in line to hit it that it might be getting close to the end.
Every group of social smokers has slightly different traditions. Newcomers to the circle should respect them, even if they’re not what smokers are used to. That might mean passing in a different direction, taking one hit off a joint or blunt instead of two, or smoking out of different implements like water pipes.
When smoking out of a bong or water pipe, it’s important to clear the chamber completely. Leaving behind stale smoke makes the next person’s hit extremely unpleasant. The harsh taste will choke them and the smell alone can ruin a high. Those who aren’t used to smoking bongs can always take smaller hits to make the chamber easier to clear. That’s a much more considerate solution than leaving stale smoke behind.
No matter how excited newcomers to their first smoking circles may be about the experience, they should resist the temptation to do anything that could compromise others’ privacy. That includes sharing photos on social media, talking about it with other uninvolved parties, or outing marijuana smokers to their family members, friends, or employers. Even in states where cannabis is legal, smokers may have personal reasons for keeping their marijuana use to themselves.
Secondhand smoke can still produce noticeable effects, so always avoid blowing smoke in other people’s faces. While plenty of people enjoy smoking marijuana, it should always be a deliberate choice to get high. That goes for animals, as well. Blowing smoke in pets’ faces can not only make them uncomfortable but can, in some cases, harm their health.
While some form of either recreational or medicinal marijuana possession and use has been legalized in the majority of states, that doesn’t mean anything goes when it comes to legality. Here are a few dos and don’ts those just getting into smoking should keep in mind if they want to avoid run-ins with the law:
Even in places where smoking marijuana is completely legal, it’s still a good idea to be considerate of the neighbors. Not everyone enjoys the pungent aroma of burning marijuana. In states where smoking marijuana is still illegal, nosy neighbors are one of the top causes of unwanted cop interactions. Even in legal states, neighbors may try to make trouble for smokers if they have to deal with a constant deluge of smoke pouring into their yards or, worse, their windows, so try to be discreet and considerate.
Even states that have legalized adult recreational use don’t let smokers light up wherever they please. No matter how tempting it may be, it’s not smart to just light up in a public place. That goes for both indoor and outdoor environments, especially if there are other people around.
Those who use marijuana medicinally or are frequent recreational smokers who function better while high may want to invest in a vape pen. Some models are designed to reduce odors, which can make it easier to use marijuana when they can’t find a safe place to smoke. Some frequent smokers also buy edibles, tinctures, or other products intended for oral consumption as a more discreet option.
Most states with legal medical or recreational marijuana have laws on their books that prohibit driving while high. While research has shown that it’s less dangerous than driving drunk, driving while high still poses unacceptable safety risks and legal risks. Just don’t do it.
There are few things more exciting for novice stoners than getting invited to their first smoking sessions, but don’t get over-excited. Get used to the effects of marijuana at home before smoking with a bunch of people, be respectful, and always bring some weed to share. It’s the best way to keep getting invited back.