Being pot polite

Social etiquette takes shape within the marijuana community

What can you serve after a dinner party? It could be marijuana-infused brownies, lollypops, lozenges or just an old-fashioned joint. With the legalization of marijuana in Colorado, pot-etiquette questions have arisen. Enlarge photo

JERRY McBRIDE/Durango Herald photo illustration

What can you serve after a dinner party? It could be marijuana-infused brownies, lollypops, lozenges or just an old-fashioned joint. With the legalization of marijuana in Colorado, pot-etiquette questions have arisen.

Gone are the days when law-abiding adults’ interaction with pot was limited to ignoring an unmistakable smell wafting up from a teenage son’s basement abode.

Indeed, recreational marijuana may be changing the hospitality that bourgeois grown-ups extend to their ilk across the state.

Carson Fullagar, manager of Acceptus, a marijuana-edibles business in Durango, said he sees 50 customers on a busy day, and demand for TCH-laced Cheeba Chews, peanut butter cups and lollipops is booming.

“Pot losing its criminal aura is definitely a good thing,” Fullagar said. Like many people interviewed for this article, he said consuming marijuana these days seems more socially acceptable than smoking cigarettes.

But since pot became legal last November, teenagers – its old poster child – have lost interest in the drug, Fullagar said.

In their stead, a new demographic has come forward as the face of marijuana: tax-paying, middle-aged, middle-class adults.

In this new world order, societal norms that once defined pot consumption as strictly verboten have become hazy: When hosting an office Christmas party, does one offer guests a hit from a vaporizer alongside a winter cocktail? Is it a guest’s responsibility to inform a hostess of her marijuana intolerance, just as one would vegetarianism or a nut, gluten or seafood allergy?

These questions aren’t lost on early marijuana-adopters, who are eager to dispel any social anxieties arising from weed.

“The pot community is developing an entire social etiquette,” said Ignacio resident Corinne Tobias.

The munchies

Experts say weed’s culinary potential is nearly unlimited.

Tobias, author of Wake & Bake – an imaginative and exhaustively researched marijuana cookbook – is at the vanguard of incorporating pot into a respectable middle-class diet.

A self-described “foodie,” Tobias said high-quality marijuana and rosemary can be infused into olive oil, making for a delicious chicken entrée.

Like many marijuana aficionados, she said when she hosts dinner parties, she always tells guests if a dish – be it an after-dinner coffee, cake or pasta – features marijuana.

“That’s just polite,” she said.

Tobias said marijuana could be used in basically everything with an oil or butter base. And just as wine enthusiasts discuss vintages with a specialized vocabulary – hoping for an “oaky” chardonnay to go with their halibut – marijuana habitués are well-able to choose a marijuana strand that perfectly compliments both mood and a canapé.

“The vocabulary is already becoming more developed. If you want a high without munchies, you go with sativa. If you want something more relaxing and pain-relieving, you want indica,” she said.

National trends suggest there’s an eager audience for Tobias’s ingenious take on marijuana-infused smoothies.

In a new book about cutting-edge cooking, The New Yorker food writer Dana Goodyear claims that pot, the old oregano, is shaping up to be the “new oregano” in forward-thinking kitchens across the country.

In Denver, a sushi restaurant has already introduced a tasting menu with suggested pot pairings, in the manner of fine wines.

As usual, mores are slower to change in Durango.

The head chef at one of Durango’s elite restaurants – who insisted on speaking off the record, fearful that any association with marijuana would sully his establishment’s good name – said he wouldn’t be using organic, locally grown marijuana to season beef from James Ranch any time soon.

But Tobias said the project of destigmatizing marijuana is vibrant in La Plata County, pointing to her friend Jeremiah Kern, the Durango-based editor of www.smokingwithstyle.com – a modern guide to marijuana manners in 21st century Colorado.

Emily Post lights up

In a phone interview, Kern said he began codifying cannabis “do’s and don’ts” 12 years ago after “a conversation with friends where we mused on the lack of politeness that some people would bring to smoking circles.”

Since then, he has used his site to elaborate on pot-related matters both arcane (“cornering the bowl”) and self-evident (“ask your host if they allow pot smoking in the house”).

There’s a national appetite for the knowledge Kern dispenses. He said his site garners 1.8 million distinct visitors a year.

“I would absolutely love to be considered an ambassador,” he said.

But Kern, who’s new venture, MJ Traveler, aims to be an online marijuana tourism guide to Colorado, said he was frustrated that more local businesses weren’t showing leadership.

He hopes MJ Traveler will provide marijuana tourists with everything they need to know while booking a marijuana-friendly vacation in Colorado, listing every hotel and restaurant that accommodates cannabis-consuming guests, whether by smoking section or menu.

Kern said the market for marijuana is broad and deep. “I mean, there are already weed snobs,” he said.

Yet no business in Durango is “coming out of the closet very quickly. Once that happens, there’s going to be huge income – just as a bar does for alcohol, people like to do these things socially. Something of the stigma lingers when you can only do it in your home. It makes it feel dirty,” he said.

Kern said there would soon be “establishments where people can enjoy cannabis together in the open. In Durango city limits, I can see why businesses like the Strater Hotel or Seasons restaurant would hold back – they don’t need it. But come July 1 with the option for retail licenses, as soon as someone opens up something new, they’re going to make a killing.”

Until then, Tobias reminded home chefs to mind their manners.

“Don’t eat all the cookies, so nobody else can have one. That’s the rudest thing you could do,” she said.

cmcallister@durangoherald.com

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