Eleven Rules for Cannabis Social Etiquette


Basic guidelines for marijuana smoking etiquette have been learned by watching others and occasionally published in magazines and books over the years. One version of these rules was made available in a 2007 book titled Pot Culture as the wave of marijuana awareness began its current surge. As cannabis has continued its push into American culture, generally accepted “rules” of behavior for spontaneous smoking groups of old and new friends have developed and improved the community’s karma.

NC NORML recognizes that the plant is still illegal in North Carolina, but today it is easy for people find themselves in states where cannabis laws are friendly to consumers. The following rules are not absolute, but rather a guide for showing the expected courtesy if and when you find yourself navigating through the newly evolving cannabis cultures. When followed consistently, they ensure a healthy and helpful social existence.

We draw attention to these guidelines for etiquette as a way to point to several blooming ideas:  yes, there are millions of people who enjoy getting high socially; doing so mindfully can make the experience a beautiful one; and most importantly, these stereotypical principles of smokers’ social etiquette point to one underlying maxim – Do your best to make life better for others and yourself. The marijuana culture tends to be a benevolent, non-violent group. Let’s keep it that way.

Read, comment and practice…


Rule One – Always share. Even if you only have a small amount of herb on you, it’s considered good karma to be generous. Share what you’ve got with a smile to ensure potential happiness is maximized for all.

Rule Two – Offer to someone else first. Even though you are already generous enough to share with others, handing someone else the first green puff is appreciated by all and will make someone else feel seen. Your kindness will be amply rewarded as the bud amplifies your big-hearted state.

Rule Three – Know and Reveal the Shared Strain. Marijuana strains have higher THC contents than ever before. A strain high in THC can have potent psychedelic qualities that can be upsetting to those who are unprepared. It’s socially responsible to know your strain, its THC and CBD ratios, and what to expect. Leafly.com can be a helpful guide, but individual plants, personal mindset, and overall surroundings will always vary – and matter greatly. Knowing and sharing your information before the first toke will break the ice early. Talking openly about how the plant can shift one’s consciousness allows your friends to feel more comfortable talking about what inner experience they may be having. Know Thy Weed.

Rule Four – Puff, puff pass. This mantra was learned and passed down from earlier generations. When adhered to, it ensures that no one monopolizes the community cannabis and sits with a smoldering joint in hand while others fidget watching the precious plant burn away. Don’t be selfish. Enjoy your few moments with the herb, and pass it along. SelfLESSness is contagious and makes for a better high every time.

Rule Five – Don’t Crash the Party. If you don’t have pot of your own, don’t shove yourself into a circle of people who may be sharing a joint. Wait for them to notice you and be gracious for any invitation to partake. Marijuana enthusiasts are typically the most generous people in our society, so don’t fret. Patience is a virtue.

Rule Six – Burn the bowl’s edge. Freshly dried marijuana is full of terpines that are the source of its characteristic aroma and delicious flavor.  If you are smoking a newly packed pipe, think of the others who are going to smoke after you and how they might savor the taste. Use the lighter’s flame to gently burn the buds packed at the edge of the pipe. Sending the flame into the center of the dried flowers robs the enjoyable fragrance from those next in the smoking circle.

Rule Seven – Clear the bong chamber. Smoking from a water bong is one of the favorite methods of ingestion according to High Times polls. When you inhale from a water pipe, a chamber fills with marijuana smoke that’s been cooled by water and easier for your lungs to hold. It’s considered good form to pass the bong with a chamber free of smoke. This is not rooted in practicality. It’s just something people do to ensure a full bong experience for the next person. If you’ve never smoked from a bong, ask someone for guidance – people are always willing to share their knowledge (and it’s always poor smoker form to ridicule others for lack of understanding).

Rule Eight – Issue a Tobacco Warning. Some people like to mix marijuana in their tobacco. This concoction is more common in Europe and relatively rare in the US. Still, tobacco makes some people sick and can be difficult on the lungs. If your shared joint has tobacco, let people know before the joint is even lit. Tobacco kills.

Rule Nine – Keep the Joint Dry. People often wet their lips in anticipation of an approaching joint. Unfortunately rolling papers are sensitive to liquid absorption. No one wants to be passed a moist joint full of someone else’s saliva. Do you best to keep your lips dry before taking a puff.

Rule Ten – Stay clean. If you’re smoking from a bong, get fresh water often and clean the glass periodically once residue shows up on the glass walls. Bongs are often cherished pieces of art, so treat them as such. If you’re using a grinder, do the detail work on your own time to ensure you show up with an immaculate tool. Do your best to improve the setting for others. Cleanliness is next to godliness.

Rule Eleven – Be understanding. If someone is having a particularly neurotic day, sometimes the cannabinoids can exacerbate the psychological state instead of being relaxing. The right mindset and intention are critical but too often neglected. Create a safe space for everyone. Let them know you have their best interests at heart. Help them be comfortable. Use every smoking session as an opportunity to practice enhanced empathy and compassion.


Cannabis consumption can be a solitary activity to help with self-reflection, creative visualizations and medicating ailments. The plant is also a way to open oneself socially despite the vulnerabilities and imperfections we all share as humans. When sharing the mild psychedelic plant with others, following these rules will ensure goodness to all those involved.

Be well.

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