Cannabis etiquette for the vaccinated stoner: An experts’ guide to safe toking in the age of COVID-19
After a year that’s been all puff and no pass, many cannabis enthusiasts are eager to light up with friends. Yeah, it used to be fun enjoying a calming Indica on the couch in the privacy of your quarantine. But now that couch is a bit (or a lot) more worn-in than it was a year ago, and smoke sessions with only your houseplants for the company are starting to get a little sad.
So for the vaccinated stoner, what does safe, ethical cannabis consumption look like?
To answer this query, we turned to Cannabis Clinician and GreenState contributor Dr. Leigh Vinocur.
Here’s a 5-part “code of ethics,” if you will, for vaccinated cannabis users, according to a cannabis health expert.
1. Do not smoke cannabis indoors or share a joint with a group, even if you are all vaccinated
Even if you and your friends are fully vaccinated (i.e. have received the second dose of a 2-dose series COVID-19 vaccine, such as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or their only dose of a single-dose vaccine, such as the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, two or more weeks ago,) Vinocur recommends keeping your smoking circles either outdoors or online.
“COVID is spread through respiratory droplets, so if you have COVID and cough after taking a hit, you risk spreading it to everyone around you,” Vinocur told GreenState. “In the age of the Delta variant, the thing to consider is how contagious it is, even for vaccinated people. And if you have it – even if you can’t tell you have it because you don’t have symptoms – you can still spread it. So I think I’d still not recommend smoking with a group in enclosed spaces.”
In the same vein, it’s not quite safe to pass a joint around yet. Touching anything that has touched someone else’s mouth is risky, so keep puffing without passing for now.
The CDC still recommends people wear masks at indoor events and workplaces, even if they’re vaccinated, because of the highly contagious nature of the Delta variant.
2. Do not smoke cannabis at home if you live with someone who is not vaccinated
For parents with children who are not yet eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, or anyone else living with someone who has not been vaccinated, Vinocur’s advice is to steer clear of smoking at home in general. This is because coughing, something that often naturally occurs after smoking cannabis, is proven to spread the virus.
“Don’t smoke inside around people who are not vaccinated,” Vinocur said. “This is about protecting other people – that’s what these public health recommendations are about.”
Bear in mind that the viral load of people infected with the Delta variant is estimated to be 1,000 times higher than it was for people with the original strain of COVID-19. So while you may not be experiencing symptoms, this variant could be extremely dangerous, even deadly, for someone else.
3. It’s probably OK to share a stash with someone else
COVID-19 rarely spreads on surfaces, and when it does, it’s likely because someone has previously coughed or sneezed on that surface. So when it comes to your stash, Vinocur said it’s probably OK to share.
“It’s like sharing the food in your fridge,” Vinocur said. “The virus doesn’t seem to have a lot of fomite transmission, so sharing a product with other people, especially vaccinated people, should be fine. And if you’re smoking cannabis flower, the bacteria will be killed when you burn it, anyway. If someone has been sneezing and coughing and they touch your cannabis product, though, you don’t want to touch that.”
4. If you are smoking in a public space outside, stand six feet away from others
Smoking cannabis in public spaces is illegal in most parts of the country, but in New York, residents are allowed to smoke cannabis anywhere smoking tobacco is allowed. Vinocur said that while it’s acceptable to smoke (and cough, if needed) outside, vaccinated persons should still practice social distancing while toking.
“Stay six feet away from people when you’re outdoors smoking and coughing,” Vinocur said. “This will decrease the chance that you spread the virus to anyone through respiratory droplets. Or, you could use edibles or tinctures instead of smoking, so there’s no chance you cough on someone.”
5. The safest way to enjoy cannabis with friends? Edibles in the park
OK, so you can’t pass a joint around. But who said that had to stop you from communing with cannabis?
For those who live in states where recreational cannabis is legal, Vinocur recommends finding a spot outdoors where you can use edible cannabis products and cannabis tinctures, and hosting a socially distant pot party there.
“The setting that is the most safe for everyone is a bring-your-own cannabis party outdoors, with vaccinated friends, using your own products,” Vinocur said. “If everyone is vaccinated and you are using edible products that won’t cause you to cough, you have a much lower risk of spreading the virus.”
In most states, it’s illegal to smoke cannabis in public spaces of any kind (parks and beaches included,) but there are places where you can consume tinctures and edibles. New York state recently became the only state in the U.S. to allow smoking cannabis anywhere you can smoke tobacco.
Still, New Yorkers should consider that the virus is spread primarily through respiratory droplets, so there is a risk involved in coughing outdoors after taking a hit, especially if you are standing less than six feet away from other people.
Elissa Esher is Assistant Editor at GreenState. Her work has also appeared in The Boston Guardian, Brooklyn Paper, Religion Unplugged, and Iridescent Women. Send inquiries and tips to email@example.com.