We had polished off dinner, tucked the kids into bed and cracked open a bottle of wine. That’s when our guest pulled out a tiny change purse and took from it what my husband and I thought was a cigarette. It was actually a joint.
“This is my nightcap,” she announced, lighting up and inhaling in matter of milliseconds. “I hope you don’t mind.”
My husband is not categorically opposed to marijuana. But he’s not particularly keen on someone partaking in our vacation rental, with another set of renters downstairs and our children installed nearby on a blow-up mattress, so he pecked back: “That didn’t sound like a question.”
It was an awkward moment, quickly brushed aside by our collective desire to keep an agreeable evening relatively agreeable. But it led us to wonder — just what is the current etiquette on marijuana usage?
It turns out we’re not the only ones asking. At a time when smoking marijuana is increasingly mainstream, legal and socially acceptable — a recent Quinnipiac poll showed that 51 percent of respondents believe it should be decriminalized — when and where to inhale is a question flummoxing regular smokers, part-time partakers and nonsmokers alike.
After all, cannabis is now legal for recreational use in Colorado and Washington state and technically legal — although not yet legally available — for medicinal use right here in the District.
A new challenge is figuring out how we’re all supposed to navigate dinners, cocktail parties, barbecues and cross-generational family get-togethers as more people liken puffing on a joint to sipping a glass of wine, while others still consider it a malodorous habit that’s best done not at all, or at least far from our house.
Allen St. Pierre, the executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and a smoker himself, says navigating the marijuana mores shouldn’t, in theory, be that perplexing as long as smokers follow the cardinal rule: “Do not use cannabis in the presence of others who are not keen on it.”
The challenging part, he said, is figuring out who’s keen.
Here in D.C., it is far from a partisan debate, something that both Republicans and Democrats struggle with. “It’s a cross-party issue,” said a 27-year-old aide to a GOP congressman who, like many interviewed for this story, preferred not to give her name, further highlighting people’s discomfort with this subject. She says she smokes often at home, but does so without telling her ultraconservative, 50-something boss, her co-workers, or even many of her friends. “It’s really hard to know how people stand on it.”