A Look at Cannabis Etiquette

By Justin Allec

Picture this. You’re attending a neighbor’s bar-b-que. It’s a mixed bag of folks who don’t totally all know each other. There’s a table full of food, a cooler full of drinks, the sun is out, and everyone is having a nice time. Then your neighbor and a few of their friends – but not everyone, and not you – congregate in a corner of the yard and light up.

How do you read the situation? If you’re a cannabis enthusiast, this might be okay. Cannabis consumption doesn’t bother you, but it still leaves you feeling annoyed because now more than half the people at the party have indulged and you never got an invite to that party. However, if you’re not comfortable with cannabis, this can seem extremely rude – sure, they didn’t force it on you, but now there’s a cloud hanging over the backyard and conversation has ground to a halt.

While legalization dictates how the law deals with cannabis, the social rules are still evolving. “Legal” doesn’t automatically transfer to “socially acceptable”, and context matters. Fortunately, a lot of cannabis culture is anchored by a sense of etiquette between enthusiasts. 

Most of the old rules are still relevant. Sharing is caring, pass it to the left, don’t bogart the joint, don’t join in if you’re sick, inform people about what they’re smoking, these are about consideration. The cannabis community has traditionally been friendly and welcoming, whatever people’s experience levels, so etiquette was straightforward. Don’t be a jerk, in other words.

Legally, cannabis is controlled similarly to cigarettes due to dangers posed by the smoke. Indoor smoking anywhere except for your home is prohibited. You can’t smoke within twenty meters of a school, playground (or any other place where kids are, duh), or any other public grounds, which includes parks. There’s also a nine-meter rule against smoking near business and hospital entrances, as well as near outdoor patios. Like alcohol, you can’t use cannabis in your vehicle.

So really, outdoors might be the best place to do it, but even then you should show some consideration. Do your neighbors have their windows open? Are kids or pets around? Does your apartment building allow smoking on balconies? Are you walking down a busy street? All worthwhile questions to ask, because not everyone around your space may be as excited about cannabis as you are.

Social situations, like the example I gave above, also don’t need to be awkward. If you’re hosting, it’s a good idea to let the whole party know what’s happening. If some of your guests are abstaining, you should probably refrain as well. If everyone is on board, though, then I hope you have a decent spread of munchies and some entertainment. I’d highly recommend checking out Lizzie Post’s Higher Etiquette: A Guide to the World of Cannabis, from Dispensaries to Dinner Parties for a more complete view of hosting and attending social gatherings where cannabis is in the mix. Post is the great-granddaughter of etiquette maven Emily Post, and she’s done her homework for you to navigate nearly any context with respect and ease.

Cannabis is a social substance, but that doesn’t mean that it’s accepted everywhere. Along with Post’s book, I’d also recommend revisiting Ontario’s Cannabis Act if the rules seem a little fuzzy. Be educated about how you’re consuming. And don’t be a jerk.