This article started with a simple observation.

HERE IN ARGENTINA, people generally hang onto a joint for a few puffs before passing. This borderline bogarting is the way it’s done here, and if you’re from the US and puff, pass, you’ll be missing out on your fair share when someone passes to you.

Ways and means

A lot of weed etiquette depends on how you’re smoking. If you’re smoking a spliff (pot and tobacco mixed), the mixture is less precious and there’s less concern about wasting bud as you stand around and shoot the shit while it burns. Even the most mellow American stoner is likely to feel a little angst in these moments, watching half the joint burn skyward, the buzz potential that smoke represents harshing a great mel.

Then there are rules that hold true anywhere. I asked the Ents on Reddit and got some general tips for being a courteous smoker.

  • No wet lipping joints
  • Don’t throw out roaches, but save them for the next joint.
  • When passing a pipe around, fold the bowl over. Give your friends a green hit even after you’ve burnt it.

International comedian Tom Rhodes had this to say:

In Europe they hang onto it and pontificate for long lengths of time which as an American it drives me crazy. It’s because they roll it with tobacco and they see no urgency to pass it on. In the US we roll it pure, so you don’t want to waste it. I think Smokey says it best in the movie Friday, “Puff, puff, give!”

A question of quality

Generally, with joints in Europe and South America, you’ll run across pressed weed or hash mixed with tobacco. In the US, you’ll get straight weed (of varying quality to be sure).

In Australia, apparently, it’s a mixed bag, depending on the region. The Middle East has its own sets of herbs, and pot is less common (with Afghanistan being a major exception). I can’t get anyone to get specific about smoking in Asia yet, though there have been insinuations among those I’ve asked that it’s more of an opium culture ’round that way. Thai stick is world famous, however, and contributor Mark Ayling points out, “Ganja comes from India (Ganja = Ganges river).”

Matador TV editor Josh Johnson (aka Joshywashington) wrote, “There are also the regional weed/hash cultivations and preparations. In BC, Seattle, Eugene, Humbolt, you are going to find sticky buds. But in Costa Rica, Thailand, and Mexico, you are much more likely to pick up brown pressed weed full of seeds and stems. They just seem to hack the plants as they stand and grind it up and press it, taking all the flavor and goodness out almost completely. Other places hash is more prevalent.”

Maryam Louise said, “In Yemen, marijuana, called Bango, is forbidden. When I got there, I wasn’t expecting this since I was an Arab from the Persian Gulf and knew that it grew wild. Since I have a history of migraines that don’t respond to medication, I knew I was in trouble if I couldn’t get some marijuana for medical reasons.

“I wound up talking with a man from Eritrea in Yemen to find some Bango. In the end, it reminded me of buying weed in Golden Gate Park. I paid $10 and he went to the countryside and collected some sativa that grew near the mountains. It was definitely all leaf and no bud, but that $10 free-range ounce got me through those five months. To smoke it, the guards at the school bought me a water hookah. No one from Yemen wanted to have anything to do with marijuana.”

In most places, the less precious and powerful the mix, the more permissible it is to hang onto the joint for a few tokes.

The important thing to remember when you’re out in the world is that what you think of as the “right” way to do things doesn’t necessarily apply to the rest of the world. Watch, learn, adapt, and respect your hosts’ ways.

With tobacco, ’cause that’s how I roll

The Matador team agreed with the general idea that in Europe they’ll roll it with tobacco and hang onto it for a while. The same thing happens here in Argentina and throughout South America, it seems.

Something for the blunted. Photo: miggslives

Joshywashington had this to say about that, “While I will not pass by a smoldering spliff, I do not like to inhale cigarette smoke that deeply and it burns, hurts. When I offered a bloke a fat bowl of green bud, he was dumbfounded that we would smoke so much bud at once.”

Another friend of mine (who declined to be named) said that during her time in France, hash and tobacco were smoked together in the more relaxed European style.

Matador editor Nick Rowlands commented about the peculiarities among those he knows in England, “We don’t have the same hit-and-pass culture like the US, presumably because we’re smoking a mix. People take a good few tokes before passing on, and it’s not unusual for the person who made the joint to smoke most of it, passing on enough for everyone else to take a few hits before it dies (at least in my group). Bongs and pipes aren’t as common as over the pond either.”

Spotlight on a spliff. Photo: JosephAdams

He also adds that in Egypt, “It’s all hash or crappy bush weed here, so people mix it with cigarette tobacco. The standard papers don’t have glue on them (though you can get imported skins), so with hash, at least, people tend to roll a number of short, single-skinners and pass two or three (or more!) around the group at the same time, taking just a few hits before passing.”

Neil (an Australian Redditor) said, “As a rule everything is mixed, depending on what state you’re in. Generally, South Australia and Queensland don’t mix their weed at all, but I’m sure there are people from these states that do.

“In my experience, joints are just enjoyed during conversation, passed to the next person once you’ve had a couple (two, three or four puffs, as long as you’re not obviously hogging it), left or right (where I’m from it just goes to whoever hasn’t had any yet), and if someone else shows up mid-spliff, depending on how much is left, they are always welcome to toke along.

“Australian weed etiquette very much reflects the well-known Australian good-bloke sort of attitude, look after the next guy as you would look after yourself. That’s how I see it anyway.”

One-hit wonders

Nick Rowlands says in Poland, “…we used to smoke pure weed out of glass cigarette holders – the bit where you were supposed to put the butt was a bowl just big enough for a single hit.”

And here’s where modes of smoking come in, for even in the US, it’s quite uncommon for one-hitters or small pipes to be passed while they’re still burning. This trend seems to hold true for smaller bowls used in bongs in general. The rule here that seems to hold true worldwide is with a small bowl, you clear it when it’s your turn and it gets packed again for the next guy.

Neil from Australia says of bowl size, “I seriously don’t understand the way Americans smoke bowls. We call them cones over here and we only have single-hit bongs, unless we buy overseas made bongs, which I always end up getting a single-hit cone piece for.”

Hash: A mixed bag

A number of rituals pop up around hash smoking.

Carlo Alcos said, “People here [BC] also mix tobacco with their dope. I don’t like it either. But I understand it’s necessary if hash is mixed in because tobacco burns hotter and the hash needs the heat. That’s not really etiquette, just science, I guess.”

The consistency and oiliness of hash call for some unique solutions that require patience. The most entertaining to me was an elaborate method Nick Rowlands has seen in Egypt and nowhere else. His description of this procedure follows:

The Egyptian hash technique: here the match is standing in for hash. Click for a larger version. Photo: Nick Rowlands.

  • Roll and flatten out a long thin piece of hash (so it needs to be pretty good quality), so that it’s maybe the length of your little finger, but just a few mm across.
  • Snap a cigarette so that it will fit lengthways inside a glass, and insert one end of the stick of hash into the cigarette so it hangs down.
  • Light the other end and the pure hash burns, filling the glass with smoke.
  • Cover it with either another glass, or a beer mat, or a piece of paper or something to stop the smoke escaping.
  • Once it’s full, you ‘drink’ the smoke from the glass, then re-cover and allow it to fill again for the next guy.

He adds, “It’s traditional to smoke the cigarette support afterwards too.”

Eileen Smith added to the conversation, “I don’t know the demographics on who ‘hot knifes’ hash, but people in Oregon by way of Boise seemed to. Similar concept to the cup thing, collecting the smoke under (in this case) a two-liter plastic bottle with the bottom cut off, and sucking the smoke up through the top having vaporized the hash between two hot-tipped knives under the dome of the plastic bottle.”

This all supports the American “precious weed” aesthetic whereby fine quality is treated as a treasure to be shared equally and carefully used.

Left or right?

I never gave this much thought, but apparently others have. When it comes to the direction you pass the weed, Redditor drilldozerbaggins said, “With regards to passing — right is rule, left is law.” If anyone can explain that to me, please do.

Josh Johnson said, “I don’t know if this is common everywhere but I have always been taught to pass the joint to the left, clockwise. The song lyrics ‘Pass the Dutchie to the left hand side‘ come to mind, as does the saying ‘right if your white,’ white essentially meaning not cool.”

Wait! Before you put that out…

I ask you, dear midnight tokers, does this hold true where you live? What customs did I miss?

I’m not averse to doing a follow-up piece. If you have something to say about smoking weed in your part of the world, please leave a comment.

If you have more than a comment’s worth to say or are interested in writing about weed, we’re still looking for a weed ambassador to research and write about laws, customs, and the history of ganja worldwide. If you’re interested, stick to the topics outlined above, write a tight pitch for a first piece, and send it to kate[at]matadornetwork[dot]com with the subject line “Ganjanator.”