Anecdotal Conversations: Cannabis Dependency

with Adie Rae PhD and Alice Moon

People are so excited that they get to consume cannabis that all other bets are off… and we have a huge responsibility and opportunity to make sure that we reduce harm. If we get the message out early and wisely enough, that is literally prevention. — Adie Rae, PhD

Illustration Sara Andreasson @saraandreason

I was in Paris, an annual holiday that always brings me joy, relaxation and detox from the hectic pace of The States. I was a bit on edge that I didn’t have access to cannabis. So much so, I began to question if I would even return to France until cannabis is legal. Having to decide between my favorite city and my favorite plant was the first sign of some type of dependency brewing.

I knew the tolerance dance well and it took a few decades for this to set in, but lets be real, I’ve smoked more in the last two years than I have in my entire life.

With accessibility, dependency lurks in the shadows for many of us. Learning how to have a healthy, sustainable relationship with cannabis is like any other relationship. One that requires respect and absence of abuse to ensure that it continues to be a happy, rewarding, and above all, an enduring one.

After returning home, my first call was to Dr. Adie Rae Phd, an award-winning neuroscientist with more than 15 years of experience with addiction, cannabis, and opioid replacement. When she explained dependency could lead to Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome (CHS), I thought about Alice Moon, a cannabis influencer, who has been vocal about her ‘almost daily’ usage turning into an awful full blown cannabis allergy — a story that deserves attention.

So for today’s newsletter, a friendly reminder that on occasion, absence does make the heart grow fonder and every once in a while we need to take a T-break. Because, if you love this plant the way I do, understanding that this is intuitive medicine and we have to own how we treat it — will keep us, our loved ones and the reputation of this magical plant in tact.

Side note: I was shocked to discover that the last real study on cannabis dependency was in 2012? Say what? 🖤 Nina

In Conversation with Dr. Rae


Dr. Rae: The latest numbers were from 2012, and it was roughly 9% of the people who ever tried cannabis; however, that data comes from the era that was before all potent products, extracts, and vaporizer pens. It was also when many people chose not to engage with cannabis because it was illegal. With reduced barriers to consumption and less experienced users entering the mix, we're going to see the numbers go up.


Dependance is a diagnosable condition that totally exists.  DSM-V diagnostic criteria to qualify for the disorder, you have to have cannabis interfere with your life--your social relationships and/or your economic performance.

The number one red flag and leading indicator that happens in that whole litany of effects is tolerance. Tolerance is the first step on the way to physical dependence. You need more of the drug to achieve the same effect. Physical dependence rears its ugly head when you experience withdrawal which has tell-tale symptoms like irritability, lack of appetite, insomnia, and the all too familiar sense that, ‘I'm having a bad day.’ With increased dependency then comes more difficult consequences, whether they be social, economic, or physical.  


All the same things that contribute to cannabis use disorder also contribute to Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome (CHS) which is a nightmare. ( See Alice’s story below)

CHS is where you have cyclic periods of nausea and vomiting. You have used so much cannabis over such a great amount of time you've completely dysregulated your endocannabinoid system to now essentially having an allergy because your body is telling you ‘you're poisoning me.’


When you notice you have developed tolerance, it is time for a tolerance break, a ‘T break.’

Every single human being who consumes cannabis, with perhaps the exception of terminal patients, requires a minimum of a 48-hour tolerance break on some kind of regular basis. How often? This is where it’s intuitive, but with our chronic pain patients we recommend one break every 30 days.

It’s also just good for your brain. Your endogenous cannabinoid system is involved in so many homeostatic processes that you really want to give yourself the opportunity to function at your maximum potential.


We've got lots of moonshine but we have no rosé. We're severely lacking moderate products. In Oregon, retail intake managers are not permitted to buy flower from a wholesaler that is less than 17% THC and yet, it’s exactly that kind of moderation people find enjoyable. Balanced with a tiny bit of CBD is going to provide the most insulation and protection from cannabis use disorders and hyperemesis.

Using a handheld vaporizer for flower (not to be confused with vaping oil) like The Mighty or the PAX, you're getting whole-plant vaporization which is essentially a symphony. You've got the conductor THC up there doing it's thing, and you've got all of the winds and all of the string instruments and then you've got the choir in the background as the terpenes.

ON VAPING OIL (not to be confused with flower vaporizers)

Here we are again, no regulation, preying on the public's perception that this is better.

If you look at the E-vape juices, flavorings and terpenes from other sources, such as essential oils, no one has ever studied their effects when they are heated, broken up into smaller molecules and then absorbed into the human body. We have no idea of the toxicity of those things. Lavender oil is fine to put on your skin or to put in your smoothie but it's not okay to heat it up to a point where it's no longer lavender oil. It has completely morphed into something else. It has broken down into its constituent smaller molecules, some of which are totally carcinogenic.

Not to mention the fact that the tobacco companies have long known that some flavors are more addictive than others. So if you find an orange pen, that pen is more rewarding than those other pens simply because of the flavor. 

I think, honestly, the first thing that's going to happen is states are going to start outlawing concentrates because we already have 17-year-old girls coming into the ER with pneumonia because they're dabbers, which is really bad for lung health. I think after that, we're going to start to see all the similar kinds of concerns we have with concentrates are even more magnified and varied because of the vape cartridges.


The ‘regular tolerance breaks’ conversation should happen at retail.

In the State of Oregon, we have this regulation where you have to send out a 3x5 card with every consumer that says, ‘Marijuana can hurt your baby.’ That 3x5 card also needs to say, ‘Cannabis is rewarding. Here are the warning signs to look for. If you notice any of these things, take a break for a couple of days. If you're still having trouble, here's a phone number to call, an addiction hotline.’ 


People are so excited that they get to consume cannabis that all other bets are off. No other considerations are made. If it's there [on the retail shelf], then it's okay and we have a huge responsibility and opportunity to make sure that we reduce harm. If we get the message out early and wisely enough, that is literally prevention.


The Mariana Trench of pharmacology. We have many decades of work left to sort out exactly what we’re dealing with and how we can better tailor it to our needs, as humans.

Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome (CHS) with Alice Moon

If I was in a hot tub, I wouldn't puke. But within seconds of getting out, I was vomiting. I spent so many nights on my bathroom floor rotating between the two. One day I passed out in my front yard puking. A neighbor came and found me and was like, can I take you to the hospital? What can I do for you? I was just crying because I was like, I don't know what you can do for me. There's no answers. Just leave me be. I just continued to lay there and vomit. Alice Moon

I’ve been following Alice on Instagram for a couple of years now. She’s been talking a lot about her ordeal with CHS. Of course, it’s the one story that never gets echoed.

In 2016, Alice, a cannabis ‘influencer’, began having random vomiting episodes once a month with a misdiagnosis of acid reflux. By 2018 the vomiting became weekly and dangerous. She was diagnosed with Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome — a developed cannabis allergy. On the night before the big day to quit, Alice went out for her last hoorah. The last hoorah kicked up a 14 day full blown attack of daily vomiting and things haven’t been same since.

Alice’s routine was mostly edibles ranging between 5 mg and 20 mg and smoking approximately half joints in a sitting. Her routine was ‘almost daily’ and she hadn’t been taking long breaks.

ALICE: It was very scary. Just not knowing, when is this going to stop? When am I going to be able to have a sip of water? Am I going to die?

People were saying that this is pesticides. So I started smoking pesticide free weed and wasn't using a lot. Just a few hits here or there. And after a few months I had a four day episode. 

I quit using cannabis for three months, and ended up taking CBD which made the next episode shorter. So from there, I was like, okay maybe I can use CBD. I used hemp derived CBD for a few months. Then December 2018, I had my period and used more CBD than I had been using. That triggered my worst episode which was 16 days. With that I got two ulcers, a hernia and a bacteria infection. I had two urgent care visits, one at-home nurse visit and was in the hospital for four days.

I was near death with both of those severe episodes due to severe dehydration that can cause organ failure if you don't know what's going on or if you can't afford to go to urgent care.

I know of people who've developed this within one year but the majority of the people who answered my survey have been using for over eight years. So it does seem to be a lot of use over an extended period of time. Basically your endocannabinoid system is overloaded and your body just can't handle it anymore and completely rejects it. It's like once that switch is flipped, you can't turn it back. 

Now even secondhand smoke bothers me. I can't live the life that I used to live. I can't go to all the events I used to go to. I get so pissed off with all of this, honestly. I get a lot of online hate. Whenever a new article comes out, people are like, you work for the government. I'm like, ‘you guys, I love weed!’ These days, I do have a few people who will repost some stuff but ultimately, people are afraid to talk about it. It's a career ruiner, you know.

One thing that's been really hard for me this year is my mental health. I was using cannabis for depression and anxiety. People need to realize, this isn't just like, ‘oh, this girl can't smoke weed anymore.’ It's like, ‘no, this has affected my whole entire life.’ 

From all the data I've collected, there's no core commonality between all of us with CHS, and there’s tons of us. It's literally people of every age range all over the place and all different forms of consumption.

I want to be able to smoke weed again. And I don't want anyone to have to go through what I went through. It’s been so traumatizing.

We need research but we also need honest voices. These people know. They know that they haven't tested everything. Do you know what I mean? 


I miss it so much.

Alice on CannMed Panel @alicemoon

@Dr.Adie @smartcannabis


Find ‘Hi’ 5X

Without any real research, it’s through anecdotal conversations that will keep our relationship with cannabis one that lasts through sickness and health, and has many anniversaries. That’s the magic of cannabis — the conduit to open dialog and communication with ourselves, Earth, and each other. Thanks for reading all the way to the end. 💨 Nina

My headphones got me through it

— Highly Epiphanies

email your epiphanies to They’ll remain anonymous

Amsterdam: The Good Good 🌱

with Joa Helms from Green House

By taking younger people away from the dealers and providing them a safe environment, you help a community avoid a lot of bad things happening in the future.  Joa Helms, CEO Green House

If an establishment echoes its leaders, the Green House is warm, friendly, and the only stop you’ll need in Amsterdam for cannabis. With true European flair, it always comes back to the culture. In this case, the biggest healer of them all, cannabis culture.

Interesting fact: Cannabis is illegal in Holland. The technical term is “it’s tolerated.”

Built around the true nature of the cannabis plant, the Green House is not one company but rather an ecosystem of organizations that include the Strain Hunters Foundation, which provides social outreach to the world’s poorest countries, Green House Seed Company, an award-winning genetics company, Agripharm, a grow facility in Canada, GH Medical, a medical research initiative, and four Amsterdam-based coffeeshops where consumers can buy, chill and smoke weed. Green House is also where the famous strains White Widow, Super Lemon Haze and Super Silver Haze were born.

Meet Joa Helms Aka “The Tall One”

When I was studying in the 90’s at university in America, I heard more about Green House than when I was living in Amsterdam. So I said, ‘Why not see if I can work there,’ I never left since.

The 90’s was a crazy circus. Year after year we won a lot of cups either for best weed or best coffeeshop. In 1993, we won our first High Times Cup. [Ed.: Recently Arjan and Joa were amongst the 100 most influential people in the cannabis industry according to the High Times Magazine]. We met and served a lot of nice people from America, including famous activists like Woody Harrelson, Rita Marley, and Cypress Hill.

For us, every year has been different. The cannabis industry is completely different from 30 years ago.

Franco Loja, The Strain Hunters Foundation and GH Medical

The Strain Hunters documentaries started around 2005. We really wanted to go to the places where the landraces thrive and to show what cannabis means to the local community. For example, we get a lot of nice, grainy hash from India but we never truly understood where it comes from and what it signifies to local communities. It's super important to know and preserve the history. Landraces are the building blocks for modern breeding.

Unfortunately, our last episode was in Congo where we lost one of our Strain Hunters, Franco. The Congolese government had asked us to stay, and to develop a medicine for malaria, with specific CBD strains. Franco volunteered to stay, but not long after, he contracted malaria and died two weeks later. It was a dark period in our adventure together. A lot of people came to the funeral from the cannabis world and everybody was really shocked. That was January 2017.

We had to deal with the loss of our friend, partner and a very important grower within the company. In the end we did decide to stay there, even with all the risks that are involved. GH Medical is now working together with the University of Kinshasa on clinical trials. We're analyzing all the research that has been done already and developing a canna-navigator to see which cannabinoid would be good for which diseases. For example, there's one cannabinoid, which takes away your appetite. Others have the opposite effect, which is important if you are undergoing a treatment for cancer. The best results, of course, we see are with epilepsy, both for children and adults.

With every Strain Hunters documentary we leave some good things behind. Whether it’s to help with an orphanage, building a school, or donating bicycles, we do whatever we can to make their worlds a little bit better. The Strain Hunters Foundation currently works in South Africa, Malawi, Swaziland, Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo, and India.

Arjan Roskam, The Strain Hunters in Congo

The Power of Smoke Lounges

When done successfully, which means not approaching it as business or a medicinal outpost, but rather as a social environment, the city councils often see the added value of a smoke lounge in their area. 

Cannabis, we consider soft drugs. And then you have hard drugs like cocaine and ecstasy and heroin. By separating them you often prevent cannabis users from going to an illegal dealer to buy the weed, who will often push people into harder drugs in attempt to get them hooked. By taking younger people away from the dealers and providing them a safe environment, you help a community avoid a lot of bad things happening in the future. 

That whole social phenomenon is also super important. You can preserve that where people just come, get the information they need, take a coffee, roll a joint and just mingle with people that they normally wouldn't talk with.

Current Cannabis Climate

It's very intense, so it's not so strange that we’re seeing growing pains now. 

In the beginning you saw the guys with a lot of money, they just wanted to invest. They invest so many millions to put the seeds in the ground and say, ‘And now what?’ So now we have to wait twelve weeks, and they go, ‘What? Wait for it?’ Yeah, it's a plant. You can't rush the plant. You can open stores but when you put the seeds in, you have to wait because it's an agricultural product in the end. It's doing its own thing.

Now it's still about the dollars, but soon it's going to be about the cents and how much scale you can create. In the end it becomes a margin product. And that's kind of the scary thing.

You will see, same as with wine. You have wine in supermarkets and then you have wine specialty stores. In the end, it comes down to quality, pricing and branding.

On Changing the Name from Marijuana to Cannabis

If you think about it, it should be the opposite. Because of the name change, you might forget that there are still people in jail for something that is now legal, which is so wrong. And we should get those people out of prison, as fast as possible.

On Changing the Purchasing Conversation from Indica/Sativa/Hybrid to Terpenes [Ed.: An extremely loose rule of thumb: Sativa gets you up, Indica, calms you down, hybrid is in the middle. Terpenes: the flavor and smell profile].

For me terpenes is the most important thing, but I also think it's important if it's indica/sativa and how much THC/CBD everything has. It makes the picture complete.

On Microdosing

We don’t talk about microdosing here. Over here, the growing, testing and packaging, that's all completely illegal.  So the consequence is that the growers wanted to grow strong weed because they're doing something illegal, so they want the most money per square meter. This resulted in very high THC strains and not so much variation in CBD levels and THC levels.

What’s the Bigger Healer, CBD or THC?

The biggest healer is definitely THC. 

What do you Like to Smoke?

I like to smoke sativas with a nice terpene profile. Super Lemon Haze and Hawaiian Snow are nice strains with a great taste and beautiful high.

Outdoor, Indoor, or Greenhouse?

Definitely outdoor, nothing can beat the sunlight. You don't grow it in the garden in downtown Los Angeles, of course. That is a no. We have to go to Humboldt County, Sonoma, those areas.

Favorite American Brand?

I like the Cookies brand very much. I have a lot of respect for Berner. [Ed.: Berner also created a social media network for cannabis companies]. When I'm in California, I always look him up, and what he has is always super nice and super strong. Dr. Greenthumb from B-Real is also a great brand. We have been friends for more than twenty years and it’s so cool that nowadays we both work in the cannabis industry.

Most Important Part of the Job

Informing and educating the public about the importance of cannabis crops on poor communities.

When will Green House be in the States?

Definitely soon…😎

Cannabis is…

World peace.

Cannabis is my passion, my bread, my home. I feel it is my duty to make sure this amazing plant is preserved and enjoyed. I am a smoker, a grower, a breeder and a Strain Hunter. For life. The late Franco Loja, The Strain Hunter

@joagreenhouse @greenhouseseedco @strainhunters @arjanstrainhunter

Overachiever 🌱

by Manoela Saldanha

I was the perfectly positioned overachiever: excelling at Trinity, one of NYC’s most rigorous private schools — well on my way of reaching my goal of getting into Columbia University. I thought I was thriving until the day I received my early acceptance letter. Burnout caught up to me accompanied by the darkest of thoughts. That’s when my search for inner peace began. This is my recovery story and where cannabis plays a role today.

When the college process came around, I was ready. I had great grades, played sports, did community service, and was the head of all the diversity clubs — a perfectly curated application. To achieve this facade of perfection, I was sleeping an average of three hours a night, eating between 500-1000 calories a day, all while working out twice a day. 

When I received my acceptance letter and should have been feeling the high of all highs, I instead fell into a suicidal episode. I was confronted with the realization that working so hard to fit society’s definition of perfection had only empowered the mental illness that was consuming my life. I had put so much emphasis on material success and prestige, that I was stuck in an endless cycle of feeling ‘not enough,’ constantly wanting more.

Soon after, my mom walked in on me carving the words “fat” and “dumb” into my inner thighs. That’s when my parents sent me to the best therapist money could buy. I began taking 30mg of Lexapro and a Klonopin every day as a 120 lb, 5’1 girl who was barely 17. 

On the recommendation of the school counselor, I took a gap year after a tumultuous end to high school. I spent 3 months in Myanmar, a month backpacking in Peru, another month in the Amazon, and I completed a yoga teacher training. All of this shifted my perception of my place in the world and my notion of success. Being in Asia forced me to recognize the reality that many of the most basic amenities in my life, such as beds and toilets, could not be taken for granted. In Peru, I discovered a deep interest in the mystical Incan culture, which I learned about on my four day trek to Machu Picchu. I continued to delve into indigenous culture in the Amazon, where I also reconnected with my love for nature and learned about its connection to spirituality. Yoga codified this spirituality, connecting the body with the mind.

I entered college feeling rejuvenated with a better sense of my interest and tools for handling stress.

It didn’t take long to fall into old habits again. While I was undoubtedly much better emotionally and had managed to wean off my medications, I was disappointed that the calm and appreciative mindset I had taken on during my gap year had given way to the stress and demands of college. Before sophomore year, I once again sought solace, attending a 7-day retreat in Costa Rica, consisting of yoga classes, group therapy, classes, and 4 ayahuasca ceremonies, each from a different tradition. There had been talk about the tea curing addictions such as crack and healing mental illness. While I was skeptical about its supposed magic powers, my curiosity was stronger. I was open to anything that might provide a sense of inner peace.

The first ceremony consisted of 4 hours of pure paranoia. The second night, I felt nothing. The third night/ceremony changed my life. I was overcome with the deepest sense of gratitude I have ever experienced. I realized that I was one of the most privileged people in the entire world and I was overwhelmed by an immense amount of self love. I cried out of pure joy for several hours. I let go of the negative paranoia heightened on my first ayahuasca trip, which manifests itself while sober in my constant self degradation. For once, I saw myself as beautiful. It all sounds like serious hippy bullshit, but even my traditional Brazilian parents will vouch that ayahuasca cured the haunting mental illness that had taken residence within me.  Like the gap year, this experience shifted my perspective; not of the external world, but this time, of myself, which had a more powerful and longer lasting effect. 

Since the retreat, I’ve learned to use plant medicine as a means of consolidating my seemingly contradictory personality of hardworking perfectionist in a hyper competitive environment with my inner hippy searching for happiness and a higher purpose. In the Amazon, this maintenance tool is called Santa Maria, which we know as Cannabis.  

Cannabis has always been taboo in my family, so when I first began experimenting with friends as a teenager, it was a fun form of rebellion. After the retreat, I began to use it differently; at the end of a long, stressful day I would light up a joint to decompress. I’d often do it on my own—it is my “me” time. Cannabis became a form of self care. When I smoke, my guard comes down and I become more silly and open, unconcerned about presenting myself as perfect all the time. My creative side is heightened as I shift away from my overly rational and analytical thinking patterns. I also found that smoking highlights my intellectual curiosity and I allow myself to get lost in elusive concepts such as happiness, human nature, and social issues, which my day obligations distance me from. Looking back on my day, I begin to see the most stressful moments as less severe, allowing me to take myself less seriously and giving me perspective on what’s important. It prompts me to prioritize my own happiness and well-being, even if it’s only for a couple hours. 

Unlike traditional medication, I feel the benefits immediately and can control my dosage. Having control over my wellness has been empowering and improved my self perception. Instead of seeing myself as helpless, I finally feel capable of being happy without the psychological crutch of obscene amounts of chemical medication. I do not think that cannabis is a cure for mental illness and I am not trying to belittle psychiatric medication. However, for me, cannabis has been the most effective daily supplement for relaxation and joy. My use is not medicinal, nor is it as trivial as the word “recreational” implies. 

When it comes to legalization, these nuances are often overlooked due to the intense politicalization of cannabis in our country. The name “marijuana” carries the legacy of the plant’s racialization as a means of polarizing its use. With increased atrocities and  unhappiness in our society, cannabis and other plant medicine could help change the beliefs and perceptions that have led to the current concerning direction the world has “progressed” in. Perhaps, if we open our minds to the social acceptance of cannabis use, it could even do the world some good. At least it’s worth a shot.

I dedicate this newsletter to my fellow overachievers focused on the college applications right now. The moral of my story? The achievements are moot without mental health.

I thought I was thriving, I was really breaking.

Stoner Epiphanies, Manoela

🙏 Illustration compliments of Julien Posture @julien_posture

Craft Cannabis: East Fork Cultivars

with Nathan and Aaron Howard 🌱

Meet brothers' Nathan and Aaron Howard from East Fork Cultivars. High on their list: climate change, sustainable practices, and nurturing happy employees. Check out the video below to hear the craft cannabis specialists discuss their passion for plants and sustainable practices, and to get their perspective on big weed and small farms.

Harvest season begins in late September and runs through October. East Fork Cultivars farm is located in Takilma, Oregon, tucked between the pristine waters of the East Fork of the Illinois River and the Siskiyou Wilderness, just four miles north of the California border. They offer a huge variety of CBD:THC ratios, as well as supplying most of Oregon’s high-end brands with CBD. 

East Fork Cultivars Sustainability Highlights

  • Native Soil: It’s more sustainable than importing soil and it lets the characteristics and unique expression of the land and cannabis speak for itself.

  • Korean Natural Farming: The fundamental insight of KNF is to strengthen the biological functions of every aspect of plant growth to increase productivity and nutrition. The cannabis plant will ‘prune itself’ or allow the inner foliage to die back and fall to the ground. This act of dropping unproductive plant material not only provides the soil with a mulch but it also recycles the nutrients back into the soil. The focus is on naturally feeding the soil, which is what feeds the plants.

  • 100% USDA Organic: One of seven to receive 100% USDA organic certification for hemp flower and the first to receive 100% organic certification for clones and seeds.

  • Practice Plant Diversity: This year EF will be planting potatoes in with all cannabis, further increasing diversity in their cultivated spaces.

  • Compost teas and ferments are produced on site: Natural and organic alternatives to many nutrient additives that growers use. A compost tea, is just as it sounds, tea made from compost material. A large amount of water is added to smaller amount of compost and steeps. The resulting ‘tea’ is used to fertilize and water the plants.

  • Water Preservation: Water is preserved by using drip irrigation systems.

  • Preserving Natural Surroundings: Large swaths of EF land support native flora/fauna, in efforts to bolster growth of the natural ecosystem of the region.

  • ‘Clean Green’ and ‘Sun and Earth’ Certified: Using the word ‘organic’ is against the law for THC cannabis (but not for hemp - CBD producing plants). ‘Clean Green’ and ‘Sun and Earth’ stamps are another way of saying ‘certified organic’. 

    East Fork Cultivars Employment Highlights

    ‘Our team here at East Fork is everything. We try to instill a fun and safe working environment that promotes growth, security, and overall well-being for all our employees. No one makes less than $20 per hour and everyone is employed full time for a 40-hour work week with paid time off each year. We were recently able to add employee health benefits as well, with East Fork paying half the premium of each plan. Members of our core crew are able to change processes, start new projects, and generally shape the way the business is run as a whole, with everyone's input being taken into consideration. Every person who works with us gives this place a large part of their life every week. We believe that on top of being paid, the reward for that should be a sense of fulfillment and belonging. A feeling that what you do everyday matters.’

    — Nathan Howard

East Fork Cultivars is hiring an account manager and digital content manager. Check it out here.




I have only one more demon to rid. When I think of it that way, the task is simpler.

— Stoner epiphanies, anonymous

Higher Etiquette: Cannabis Culture

with Lizzie Post 🌱

I was in the third grade when my mom gave us three weeks of etiquette lessons from the famous Emily Post books. Lucky for us, Lizzie Post, the great-great granddaughter of Emily has kept the legacy alive with the Emily Post Institute on all topics from business, lifestyle, to weddings, and now cannabis with the latest book, Higher Etiquette.

We sat on a NYC rooftop, chatting about the world and where we are in it. How etiquette in general seems to be lost with unsaid rules, assumed tones and lots of innuendo across all platforms. With cannabis culture rising, we head back into real life and embrace a practice that’s all about honest communication. When I sit with Lizzie, I can’t help to feel how some talents are just in the DNA. With the perfect diction as I imagine Emily Post possessed, Lizzie is the modern version of etiquette, both refined and down to earth. Higher Etiquette is comprehensive and easy to understand. It’s a must on the shelves for every cannabis connoisseur as well as the new perfect gift. We sit and eat pizza, talk cannabis, and you heard it here first, Lizzie Post knows how to drop an f-bomb, or two, or ten :)))))

Higher Etiquette

Excerpt: The Principles of Cannabis Etiquette - Respect, Generosity, Gratitude and Sharing.


Respect is deeply rooted in the cannabis community. There’s respect for the plant itself, respect for the individual consumption preferences, as well as respect for identity, style, and language choices. There is respect for the culture as it has been, as well as for where it’s headed. 


The generosity of the cannabis community comes from a collective understanding of how much cannabis helps people and how much it is enjoyed. More often than not, a person will choose to share the last of what they have - or at least share a hit or two - knowing what it can be like to go without. 


The cannabis community feels gratitude toward both the plant itself and the freedom to engage with it. When asked from an etiquette standpoint about the right thing to do, most recommended accepting the gift and thanking the giver even if they didn’t like it — the importance is placed on honoring the act of generosity.


For the past century, cannabis has been shared and consumed in “secret.” As legalization has taken place, cannabis lovers have been coming out of the canna-closet and sharing their methods, knowledge and experience. It’s a true cannabis renaissance! As we discover ways to absorb cannabis into the greater folds of American life, collectively we will establish good etiquette and identify the beneficial manners that will shape the higher etiquette of cannabis culture.

On the importance of sharing

Lizzie Post:

It's how the cannabis community came to be. Ever since the first person chose to take this plant that they loved and say, “Hey, there's this thing that I love or that I'm enjoying or that I used or that I ate or that I smelled, you should smell it too.” That's where it begins.

Is the etiquette to buy extra with sharing in mind?

I like to think that people should be responsible for choosing their own generosity and what they're capable of being generous with. Being willing to extend to someone else or offer it as a courtesy - that to me is a beautiful tradition to uphold.

Respect. Are we respecting the plant if companies are putting it in ice cream?

I think you could argue that one both ways. I think you could say it's respectful to utilize it and celebrate it in every way possible. I think of the things like luxurious body lotions, all of it can be healing, so in some ways, that is respectful. But when it comes to the idea of using ice creams and gummies and things like that, I think of it a little more in the celebratory section of it, if I want to put the positive spin on it.

Where it wouldn’t feel respectful is if you were being greedy with it. And the way we choose to waste it would be another place I would see disrespect. I like when companies are doing something with all the plant matter that's not being cut up and used as flower. I think that's a way to show respect to the plant, to really utilize all of it because all of it can be utilized.

Excerpt: Discretion is still the better part of valor

Choosing privacy or discretion is not the same as hiding in shame. Just because you can legally toke up doesn’t mean you want to or have to share that with everyone in your life.

Best practices with social media?

So we have the capability to post anything, anytime. Respect comes from a place of recognizing that we could, and choosing to ask first. That's what I love about etiquette, it says we have a new capability and we have a responsibility to each other as a society to figure out how to be respectful with this new capability.

I have seen many cannabis dinners or events where people say “Are we all okay with being tagged? Is there someone who doesn't want to be mentioned.” And I love that because it's about giving people options and recognizing that there could be a preference.

We know that companies when they're hiring, look up people's social media accounts to see who they are and what they're up to and what kind of social media behavior they have. So given that we could be judged, in circumstances that are really issues of viability for us — your job is a really key portion of your life — it’s important to be responsible and be respectful of that. It's definitely advice that we use elsewhere in the etiquette world as well, not just with cannabis.

Excerpt: No Matter What.

The spirit of cannabis culture remains true to the principles of respect, generosity, and gratitude. These have been a the heart of cannabis culture since cannabis was first shared, and they will always remain, as will the celebration and exploration of the plant that brings so much good to the lives of many.

I have yet to be able to read it out loud [at a book signing] without starting to choke up and cry. It gets me each time. We’re talking about freedom. Being allowed to participate openly with relief from shame. The more we are allowed to be who we are and have it be ok - that’s empowering people. It’s an important thing right now.

What should we call this? Cannabis, marijuana, weed, flower?

We shouldn't have just one word, we should have many, many words. Cannabis is a word I default to but by no means is it the only word. I do think that in the media, scientific and medical arenas, and in our legislation, that this is a word we should turn to for it.

Words like marijuana, it's a beautiful word, and it's a word that can offend some people. It doesn't mean it's a bad word, it's a word from Hispanic cultures, so it should never be demonized. However, we need to be aware of its history because for some it’s offensive.

We're in a world of a lot of opinions. I had no idea that the word marijuana could be offensive to some and that it could be linked to racism. So it was really illuminating for me to learn that [in my research]. I also talked to people who love the word. I definitely had people in marketing departments telling me “you must use the word because it is the most searched word when it comes to cannabis.” So it's not about policing any kind of language, it's just about making people aware that certain words might not land well with everyone.

Where I’m from, dope is still used all the time. But it’s not a comfortable word for all, and doesn’t always make people think of cannabis when it’s used.

On “no pinching”

You shouldn't ask someone for their medical marijuana because it's their medicine, and it's actually prescribed to them just the same way you really shouldn't be asking them for their prescription pills either. And you don't ask them about their medical decisions. 

Just a note that pinching goes beyond this though. It's something that happens all the time among those who live together. It can be tempting when your roommate has a large stash and you have none to just take a pinch from their jar. But it's not polite. Instead ask ahead of time if pinching is okay or refrain from doing it until you can ask.

On passing etiquette

When it comes to joints, the classic puff, puff pass, two hits and pass it along is typical. It seems to be a comfortable standard for a lot of people. I think it's a good default to go to. 

When it comes to bowls [pipes] - it’s often one puff and then pass.

Blunt [Blunts are when cannabis is rolled into a cigar (tobacco leaf) wrap] smokers have told me three puffs and then pass.

Random scenario

Hanging with a bunch of new cannabis lovers and the joint is zigzagging all over the place. Clearly they haven’t read Higher Etiquette. Should we feel a responsibility that we have to respect the culture and share the traditions? It feels very puff puff pass police.

I may say, “Hey guys lets keep it moving around the circle” and nudge it in that direction. If its free form it may be really nice to break form once and while. You could say, “Where’s this going next?” as a good way to be polite about it. It takes the pressure off someone who keeps getting skipped in a zigzag format from having to speak up and say “hey can I get the joint?” But I also hate categorizing cannabis to just being that classic circle session. You know what I mean? Because it's so classic.

Haha, no. There are no puff, puff, pass police.

How do well-intentioned germaphobes get past the sharing and passing? I have this ‘friend’ 🙄

If you’re a germaphobe I would smoke personals. However, in that zone you end up quasi violating the sharing aspect of the community. I would suggest you bring some to share and contribute even if you don’t smoke the exact joint, bowl, or vape pen with others. I would light a joint for myself and send one around as well (offer the communal one up first and then light your own). You could say, “Sorry guys, I'm a germaphobe. Here you go. I came prepared for you.”


What’s the etiquette on keeping saliva at bay?

This is a tough one! On the polite side it starts with being aware of yourself. If you have a particularly wet whistle be mindful of tucking your lips in a bit when you hit a joint, blunt or vape pen or of wiping or burning the end of a bowl before you pass it to the next person.

😳 breathe…

Perfect, numero uno hostess gift (Higher Etiquette, obvi) and what else? Flower?

Anything cannabis related! I don’t vape a lot of oils but I still love getting vape pens and cartridges as gifts because I know I can use them in a pinch or offer them to my guests when they come over. Whenever possible go with a gift that matches the receiver’s preferences. If you don’t know them, get something you love - that’s keeping in kind with cannabis sharing and generosity for sure!

Favorite strain?

I really do love things that are in both the Durban Poison and the Jack Herer families. Tangie is also one of my favorites - your gift of tangie crossed seeds to me that one time was like a dream come true! I really like citrusy (limonene) and pinene dominant strains. 

There is a strain from one grower in California called African Queen, and it is one of my all time favorite strains. There's something about that strain that it gets you jazzed enough that you're in a really good social space, but it's also relaxing. So it's like, I want to talk with people, I want to engage with people, I have the energy to do those things, but I'm not amped up. To me, it's the perfect sociable party strain. 

I happen to like potencies that are like between 15 and 20 for weed that I want to smoke really regularly. I like higher potencies if I want to use it to go to bed or something like that.

What does cannabis do for you?

I love it in general! I like the act of smoking a joint. There’s something about that that fits with me. A lot of the times, it allows me a bit of space to process things. Or it can energize and focus me and get me to work. Or it encourages me to sleep. I guess I really like the variety of use I can get out of it. No matter what, I feel glad that I’m doing it and I feel connected to it. Everytime for me, it’s an “I like this.” kind of thing.

Cannabis is…

an amazing plant for so many reasons.

Stay tuned…as I go road trippin’ with Lizzie this fall! 💙 Nina

You can buy Higher Etiquette at Amazon or wherever books are sold!

“Reprinted with permission from Higher Etiquette: A Guide to the World of Cannabis, from Dispensaries to Dinner Parties by Lizzie Post, copyright© 2019. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House.”

Illustration credit: Sam Kalda © 2019

“If I’m here and you’re here, and we are aware of everybody else out there, does that mean that everybody else is aware that we’re here?”

Stoner Epiphanies, anonymous

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