Mind your marijuana manners: Navigating the social norms of legal cannabis

There are well established norms and courtesies around alcohol and social gatherings but many people will be encountering cannabis in social situations for the first time in the coming days and months. Here's what to expect.

'Don't be a joint-hogger and always make sure you're sharing,' says Reena Rampersad

Are you familiar with the social norms surrounding marijuana use? Here's a helpful explainer on some basic pot etiquette. (Joe Mahoney/Canadian Press)

Cannabis is legal in Canada, but while you may know the rules and regulations around responsible marijuana use, what about your manners?

There are longstanding social norms for things like attending parties, smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol. But pot presents a new frontier for many people who will be encountering cannabis in social situations for the first time in the coming days and months.

Hamilton's Reena Rampersad is the creator of High Society Supper Club, a catering company that helps people host classy dinners or event featuring cannabis-infused foods.

She's provided CBC News with a rundown of what to do in different situations, from the smoker's circle to first dates.

Reena Rampersad is the creator of High Society Supper Club, a catering company that helps people hold dinner parties or private events where cannabis-infused food is served. (Reena Rampersad)


Rampersad says the No. 1 thing to keep in mind when it comes to social cannabis consumption is bring something to share.

"It's a very social thing and people don't mind sharing," says Rampersad. "It's what you do, you puff, puff and pass, but an unspoken nerve-button for a lot of people is … mooching."

So make sure your bring something of your own, of course bearing in mind the 30-gram possession limit.

Puff, puff, pass

The unofficial marijuana mantra is another rule to live by, according to Rampersad.

It's not something that's always understood for novice cannabis consumers, she added, but a big part of enjoying pot socially is being considerate of others.

Getting caught up in conversation while the joint in your hand burns out can be a bummer for any social smoking circle.

"That's a no-no," says Rampersad. "Puff, puff and pass it. Don't be a joint-hogger and always make sure you're sharing."

Be a good host and a better guest

If you invite people over to sample some cannabis products, Rampersad suggest it's polite to be prepared.

"When I have guests over I usually have joints pre-rolled. I'm excited about sharing these new strains or harvests with my friends."

Unlike a party at a friend's house where someone might feel comfortable helping themselves to a beer in the fridge, Rambersad says the host is typically the first person to light up, or they'll tell their friends to go ahead and get started.

One thing to watch out for is making sure you're not abusing a friend's generosity. Just like that one friend who never picks up the tab at dinner, if you're constantly relying on someone else to supply the cannabis, it's probably time to contribute something of your own, she added.

Sharing is caring, unless you're sick

One of the only times legal cannabis use shouldn't involve sharing is when someone is sick.

Rampersad says conscientious consumption means taking responsibility for your health and the wellbeing of others, even when you're tempted to partake.

"If you have a cold keep your pipes, you joints, all of that, to yourself," she explained. "Even if you friend has some amazing stuff, it smells so good and they're passing it around, don't be selfish, do the responsible thing."

Give support if you can, ask for it if you need it.

If you're interested in trying pot for the first time, come with a positive attitude and leave your assumptions behind, says Rampersad.

Don't hesitate to ask someone with more experience about any doubts or concerns, chances are they'll be welcoming and eager to share advice.

Rampersad says people new to marijuana should approach it with an open mind. (Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images)

As for the veteran cannabis user, part of their role should be to make sure everyone is enjoying themselves and feeling OK.

"That should be an unspoken sense of responsibility that we carry with us as people who are a little more experienced," she explained, adding those who have "been around the block" should 

Avoid pot peer pressure

Another thing to keep in mind, says Rampersad, is that as cannabis makes its way around the circle, it can carry a lot of pressure.

Novice consumers could feel obligated to participate, but the people around them should make sure they feel comfortable saying 'No."

Rampersad says it's also important to check on your friends, especially if their experience leaves them feeling them uneasy or they seem at risk or going overboard.

"If someone is having some anxiety, you don't want to keep passing it to them," she explained. "Sometimes people will feel obligated to take the joint, or even somewhat peer pressured and might take a puff."

What about a first date?

Thanks to legalization, couples across Canada won't have to fumble for a first date conversation topic, cannabis is sure to come up.

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When it comes to pot people tend to have strong opinions, so Rampersad says the best thing to do is be clear with your partner on a few basic points.

What do you smoke? How often? What has your reaction been?

Rampersad says clearing the air up front can save a couple from some tough topics later and starts a relationship off on the right foot.

Finally: Take a deep breath

"Relax and enjoy the experience," says Rampersad. "Your friends are there to help if you need it, but if you pay attention to your body you should be fine."