The Official Guide to Being a Good Weed Citizen

From proper dosing to odor control to public-consumption boundaries, our guide to life out of the cannabis closet

It's on America's pot smokers to help others come into the public. Credit: Alex Brandon/AP

Like it or not, using cannabis in 2017 is a political statement. Gone are the days when potheads and party-tokers would puff discreetly on whatever schwag they could get their hands on, with little thought beyond fear of getting caught. Now, all of the assumptions, stereotypes and misinformation of the past are being carefully reconsidered. There are brands and ballot initiatives to consider. Opinions are changing. Pot shops are thriving. Stigmas are shifting. And that means that anyone who spritzes a weed tincture under her tongue before a movie or unwinds with a joint on a Friday night has something of an obligation to represent our kind – the recreational marijuana users of America – in a conscientious way.

Whether you're livening up a dinner party with some gourmet infused cookies or scoring some unlabeled bud from your dealer for your friend's mom, it is important to consider how to be a good weed citizen. When it comes to marijuana, very few people trust the information that comes from traditional authority figures – doctors, government, media – because so much of what has been said in the past has been false. As a result, most people get their pot knowledge through word of mouth.

Since I started writing about marijuana four years ago, I've spent a hell of a lot of time thinking and talking about how best to live openly as an ethical stoner. So if, like me, you're the person in your crew who usually has an eighth in a jar somewhere, who always carries your vape pen, who was the first to jump on getting a medical marijuana recommendation for "anxiety" ­– listen up. Everyone is looking to us for advice, so it's our responsibility to make sure we keep the neophytes and dabblers safe. We're at a critical moment, here, and how you choose to explain and offer this stuff is crucial.

A lot of being a good weed citizen just means considering how your behavior affects other people, and how can you better educate those around you. Here, then, are some carefully considered recommendations – the result of years of observations and thousands of conversations with experts, amateurs and my fellow potheads.

Share.
Being selfish with your stash is the height of rudeness. Unless you have a limited amount of cannabis that you need for serious medical problems, you should always offer some of whatever you have to the people around you, especially if you're at a crowded concert or among strangers at a party. Other than being out in public with a dog, sharing your weed is one of the fastest ways to make new friends. You never know who might be gazing wistfully at your pipe.

Thoughtfully introducing your less experienced pals to high quality cannabis products is a great way to help them understand this plant's incredible capacities. Being a magnanimous and chill pot user also means not walking off with someone else's blunt or vape pen; not getting angry when someone accidentally pockets your lighter; and trying to leave a portion of any newly-packed bowl green for the next person in the rotation.

And on the flip side, a good weed citizen will never pressure anyone into trying something psychoactive. Just because you like to get high doesn't mean other people need to.

Dose properly.
Having the generosity of spirit to share your edibles, capsules and tinctures is one thing, but even more important is making sure that your friends, neighbors and parents don't accidentally consume too much cannabis. When it comes to non-bud methods of cannabis ingestion, it is extremely easy to take more than you meant to and become trapped in a terrifying and uncomfortable situation, with only sleep as a solace. There is nothing cool about coercing someone inexperienced into doing a dab of super-concentrated wax. Unlike what happens when you have too much of certain other recreational drugs (cough, alcohol and opioids, cough), cannabis overdoses absolutely won't kill you, but they also aren't easily reversed by, say, vomiting. So it's imperative when giving people edibles and the like to only choose products you know to be accurately labeled, and then to consciously determine how much is appropriate to take.

Be mindful of the five factors that influence how many milligrams of THC a person will need: 1) how often they exercise; 2) how much cannabis they use; 3) how much food they can eat when they're hungry; 4) how recently they finished a meal; and 5) how high they want to be. Someone who works out daily, smokes every night, could eat an entire pizza, just wrapped up dinner and wants to get stoned out of her gourd will require a much higher dose than someone who goes to the gym once a month, hasn't tried pot in years, gets full after two slices of pizza, hasn't eaten yet today and is generally a little nervous about the fact that you're giving them edibles. (The first person would need at least 25 milligrams, and the second should have no more than five.) Even for regular weed smokers, 10 milligrams on an empty stomach is often more than enough. The goal is to help people find the smallest amount of cannabis that will get them high – not to turn people off of the plant forever.

Know your paranoia antidote.
The biggest complaint I hear about cannabis from occasional or former users is that certain strains or experiences left them so mute and paranoid, with their mind running anxious circles, that they never wanted to risk trying weed again. But any cannabis connoisseur worth her salt now knows that those feelings can easily be avoided with products or strains that contain a hefty dose of the compound cannabidiol, or CBD. Unlike its better-known companion, THC – i.e., the stuff in pot that gets you high – CBD is not psychoactive, and actually serves as something of an antidote to THC, inhibiting its effects. If you eat 10 milligrams of CBD and 10 milligrams of THC, you won't get as high as you would if you simply ate 10 milligrams of THC, and you'll feel a lot less anxious.

Lots of products combine CBD and THC in a range of ratios. I find that edibles or tinctures with a 1:1 or 2:1 CBD to THC ratio work best for people who like pot but have had a few bad experiences. A good weed citizen pays attention to what friends and family say they want or fear about using cannabis, and avoids getting anyone too uncomfortable – which often means recommending or buying products that contain CBD.

Contain the smell whenever possible.
Not everyone likes the way that pot smells. If you're going to consume in a semi-public setting, especially if there will be children around, consider vaping or edibles. And if you just have to have a joint, I recommend a product called the Smoke Buddy. Exhale into this thing, and the smoke and smell somehow magically disappear. (Though of course the burning weed itself will also create some odor).

Check your drug use privilege.
If you think there's something fun or adventurous about breaking the law to smoke pot, you are almost certainly white. Though people of all races use marijuana at about equal rates, people of color are disproportionately targeted for pot-related arrests and citations. White people like myself are generally given a pass. Be conscious of this. Don't roll your eyes when a black person doesn't want to risk smoking pot in a public park, which remains forbidden even in states with legal recreational use. Perhaps you could even support political causes and initiatives that aim to rectify these disparities, or local efforts trying to help get more people of color involved in the marijuana industry.

Clean your glass.
There's nothing grosser than a bong or a pipe clogged with globs of old, wet resin. Rinsing regularly with isopropyl alcohol, hot water and salt should do the trick. Your friends will thank you.

If you shop at a dispensary, ask for pesticide test results.
Unless you live in Colorado or Oregon, your cannabis is almost certainly covered in neurotoxins and carcinogens. Yes, really. In order to avoid mold and mites and mildew, and to make their buds denser, pot farmers frequently douse their plants in chemicals not meant for human consumption.

No one wants to be those Portlandia characters, but growers tell me that even one regular customer asking about pesticide testing can trigger change. So please, for my health and yours, if you're lucky enough to live in a state with dispensaries: bring this up with your budtender.