Before we even order drinks, Lizzie Post offers to teach me how to roll a joint. “I’m really good at it,” she says, explaining the best kinds of filters and the once-around technique. We’re sitting at the Bar at The Grill, a temple of white tablecloths that, in theory, feels as if it might be a natural environment in which to discuss social etiquette. But we’re here to talk about the etiquette of weed.
Post, 36, is the great-great-granddaughter of Emily Post, the woman who singlehandedly set the standard for American social decorum with her best-selling 1922 handbook, Etiquette. She is also copresident of the Emily Post Institute and, perhaps unexpectedly, an enthusiastic champion of cannabis and the author of the new book, Higher Etiquette: A Guide to the World of Cannabis, From Dispensaries to Dinner Parties. A road map to cannabis vocabulary and experiences, Higher Etiquette deals with everything from how to come out of the cannabis closet to conducting oneself politely while stoned.
Before I set out from Brooklyn to meet Post, I pondered the etiquette of offering somebody weed in the middle of a storied Park Avenue restaurant while remaining professional. I’d planned to bring along a vape and a tin of weed gummies, toted back from a recent trip to Northern California, but clean forgot both while running out the door for the F train.
“It wouldn’t be a breach of etiquette, but it would be a breach of law, which supersedes etiquette,” says Post with a lamenting tone. In jeans and flannel, long blonde hair pulled back, she may have just emerged from an afternoon walk in the woods. Because she lives in Burlington, Vermont, Post can legally consume, grow and share up to an ounce of her own cannabis if she so chooses. Pending legalization in New York, she orders a Champagne Cocktail, and I opt for a Tuxedo, a Martini variation that, coincidentally, is named for the upper-crust upstate enclave that Emily Post’s father, the architect Bruce Price, designed in the 1880s.
In Higher Etiquette, Post makes the case that good manners have always been embedded in cannabis culture. Her eyes light up on this point, and our banter is continually punctuated with “Yes!” and “Exactly!” In the book, Post explains that respect has deep, necessary roots in the cannabis community. “There’s respect for the plant itself, respect for individual consumption preferences, as well as respect for identity, style and language choices,” she writes. The past century of censure has shaped so much of modern cannabis etiquette, forcing consumers to create systems of privacy and quieter modes of distribution. Post explains that when bud is scarce and its use secretive, it forges communities that rely on discretion but also sharing.
A pot smoker since college, Post started thinking about the idea for a weed book when Colorado legalized in 2012. When Ten Speed Press came calling, she spent most of her time researching in Oregon and Colorado, two places where recreational cannabis is legal. She notes the nuance of approach between each state. In Oregon, for instance, it was normal to receive a boatload of educational information on strain (the variety of plant), terpenes (aromatic compounds found in weed) and cannabinoids (chemical compounds like THC and CBD), while in Colorado, the lexicon tended toward distinguishing simply between sativa and indica, the two main types of cannabis plants.
“Most people in Colorado were cool with me ‘smoking’ inside, while most people in Oregon asked me to ‘combust’ outside,” says Post, ever attuned to the language people use, which she notes is a major mode of how etiquette manifests. Her own diction is clear and thoughtful, though not formal or overwrought in the way we might expect from someone whose job is centered on translating politesse.
One of the things Post and the institute are sensitive to is the idea that etiquette implies primness. Though Emily Post may have insisted that lunch be served at 1 p.m. on the dot, she also believed that rigidity was not always productive. And it’s this attitude that has empowered Post and her copresident and cousin, Daniel Post Senning, to update the institute’s mission accordingly. “Etiquette is all about the individual now,” says Post. “Who are you? What makes you comfortable? How are you going to maintain self-respect in this world while respecting other people?”
It’s worth noting that Emily Post never drank a drop of alcohol but was vehemently opposed to Prohibition. “She didn’t think it was appropriate for the government to be infringing upon citizens’ rights in this way,” says Post, pointing out that she isn’t much of a drinker, either. Nevertheless, Post is delighted with her Champagne Cocktail, telling the bartender so. “I like to think of our one-drink rule for our business etiquette seminars,” she says, referencing the idea that if you’re choosing to drink, have one and see how you feel. “There are times when I can throw back the cocktails and walk away with perfect speech, and other times I have half a drink and I am blitzed.”
As we get to the bottom of our drinks, Post brings up one of the more difficult etiquette issues people deal with today. “[We’ve] stopped knowing how to talk to each other, to feel confident to talk to each other.” The bartender interjects for a moment, gesturing to the 20-foot windows, famously swathed in glittering chains. He explains that it’s one of the rare moments in which they aren’t swaying ever so slightly. “It only happens when the temperature outside is exactly the same as the temperature inside.” We all marvel at the stillness, entranced. I can’t help but think how intense this would be if we were high, the three of us sharing some deeply philosophical moment about man versus nature, mesmerized with the notion of sunlight, provided by some distant star, filtering in from Park Avenue.
Part of what Post proposes in Higher Etiquette is the idea that cannabis can be a connector and a healer. At its core, etiquette is about how we treat one another, and in an era fraught with division and communication breakdown, Post hopes it might provide a template for empathy. “That’s why I love the consideration, respect and honesty framework,” she says of the institute’s guiding principles. “[It] crosses all boundaries that divide us by class, race, political spectrum, religion, location. Anyone can think about how to treat people around them with consideration, respect and honesty.”
So much of etiquette, in this view, is about suspending rather than passing judgment—or looking at things “glass half full,” offers Post. Her great-great-grandmother, a strong proponent of kindness and dignity, would undoubtedly have wisdom to bestow in the current moment. “Our country needs a therapist and Emily Post and a hug,” she says. “And if you would like it, some cannabis.”