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How the Queen of Etiquette Got In on Pot

Almost 100 years after her great-great-grandmother published the book that set the standard for modern manners, Lizzie Post is bringing us a guide for how to get stoned — politely

higher etiquette

Sam Kalda

As more states legalized recreational marijuana use, Lizzie Post found herself fielding many cannabis-related questions: Is it cool to light a joint at a dinner party? Am I obligated to offer my house stash to guests? A 20-year cannabis consumer living in Vermont, Post, the 36-year-old co-president of the Emily Post Institute, realized weed was impacting people’s lives in a multitude of social settings. So she decided to write a book about it. Higher Etiquette: A Guide to the World of Cannabis, from Dispensaries to Dinner Parties, is out now.  

When Post announced the book, fans of her great-great-grandmother, etiquette champion Emily Post, were shocked, but supportive, she says. She was hardly surprised: Post realized the public’s idea of etiquette skewed more toward table manners than puff-puff-pass. Since 1922, the Emily Post Institute has published dozens of books on social mores — from Emily Post’s Wedding Etiquette to Essential Manners For Men — but none touched as explicitly on a subculture gone mainstream as Higher Etiquette.

“When we talk about etiquette, we’re talking about consideration and respect and honesty and how those principles can be used to create positive social interactions,” Post tells Rolling Stone. “If cannabis is legal and it’s finding its way into our social scenes much more broadly, it makes perfect sense to have our company commenting on it.”

After a career writing about high society, Emily Post published her first book on etiquette at age 50, covering topics such as how to pay the bill at a restaurant and how to behave at afternoon teas. The book’s popularity made Emily Post’s name synonymous with the proper manners. Over the subsequent century, Post’s decedents updated the guide to reflect changes in culture, with Lizzie Post adding her contributions to the most recent 18th and 19th editions.  

The institute’s goal, the younger Post says, is to provide clarity when it comes to sticky social situations in American life. And as more states legalize and decriminalize recreational marijuana, cannabis consumption and culture are increasingly a part of such modern American life. “So many people are less ashamed in being a cannabis consumer and they feel like they’re not going to be as judged,” Post says. “You can see it’s starting to permeate more and more into the folds of American society instead of being considered something off the beaten path.”

With her family’s support, Post, a cannabis consumer herself, assembled a guide on weed manners. With chapters devoted to proper dispensary behavior and appropriate conversation topics with your cannabis delivery person, the book relies heavily on situational anecdotes and advice.

A primer for both the pot novice and longtime cannabis enthusiasts, Higher Etiquette touches both on broad topics — like how to be inclusive of friends who consume as well as those who do not partake — and the nitty-gritty. For example, Post suggests dinner party hosts place small bowls of water on the table for joint rolling and run-correcting in lieu of saliva, a tip inspired by Emily’s early suggestion to put small bowls of water out for messy meals. “You don’t necessarily want to be sticking your tongue out and using spit to stop the run in a joint,” Post says. “If I didn’t want to use spit what would I use? It was one of those silly things where you feel your etiquette geeking out.”

Lizzie Post holding her great-great-grandmother’s classic book. Photo credit: Nadia Hucko

Because the topic lends itself to situational advice, Post finds Higher Etiquette reminiscent of her great-great-grandmother’s early work, which featured an authoritative voice providing context on proper interactions with people in many different situations. With this sensible guiding hand, Emily Post became one of the most significant figures in etiquette history, aiding both debutantes of the Roaring Twenties and G.I.s during World War II, an influence spanning nearly three decades. These elements of “old-school etiquette” like dinner parties and dealing with disapproving neighbors can be viewed through a 4/20 lens.

As for her long-deceased relative’s stance on ganja, Post isn’t so sure about Emily’s perspective. Though the elder Post was known to abstain from alcohol, she was a proponent of the repeal of Prohibition. This gives Post hope Emily would’ve been on board with cannabis legalization. “She wanted people to make decisions for themselves about what they were consuming,” Post says. “She was someone that had a potential to surprise people.”

Still, Post hopes Higher Etiquette helps minimize the still-pervasive stigma around cannabis culture and consumption. Whether readers walk away with knowledge about the science of the plant or more courteous ways to spark a bowl, Post believes this is the beginning of a larger conversation on the ways pot impacts everyday life. “My hope is that people take away a broader perspective of why people choose to engage with cannabis,” she says. “For people who are experienced, I hope they take away the nostalgia and the fun — and feeling like someone understood some of the moments they’ve experienced in life.”

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