There’s a longstanding and popular belief amongst our community that you can’t trust anyone who doesn’t get high. That a person in the circle who passes on the joint is an automatic flag on the field and a fifteen-yard penalty. Regardless of if you’re part of the industry, the community, or just a casual consumer, it’s an easy idea to understand. Hell, we’ve all seen Gordon Ramsay lambasting a chef for not tasting their food and it’s tough to imagine buying steaks from a butcher who passes up BBQ. Not to mention that, in the cannabis world, we put a lot of stock behind how well a person holds their smoke. However, what used to represent a sort of marijuana-mason’s handshake has over the years become a method of assuming a person’s passion for the plant or their craft.
We hold a degree of scrutiny over those at the party who pass on a puff. So what about if someone used to partake but stops for personal or health related reasons? Should they experience the same scrutiny? Do they experience a loss in relationship with the plant? Does their work suddenly become less authentic? I mean, to give the other half of the chef argument from earlier, plenty of cooks taste the soup and still have it come out tasting like Campbell’s. We respect a person passing the pipe for a tolerance break, but there’s a different kind of feeling when someone lets that break stray into a hiatus. I don’t want to say that it’s easier to take a break as a casual consumer, but that taking one when you’re living in the deep end of the pool draws attention from the other swimmers, and never the good kind.
What I’ve started to realize is that this reflexive litmus test we keep giving each other now disregards a basic concern for each other’s well-being. There are a lot of personal and health-related reasons a person might want to take a break from weed but still enjoy the fellowship of community. I mean, let’s face it, this weed game is like underwater living: there’s always an element of pressure surrounding you and it will fill all the available space if you let it. This pressure contributes to keeping up a status quo instead of stopping to address issues that can have a huge effect on our lives. I’ve had a lot of friends over the years who’ve admitted to me that they’re not smoking but don’t want to tell people so it doesn’t become a thing. Lately, I’ve seen more of a rise in people needing to take a break from smoking to work on themselves and this leading to them exploring other connections to weed while focusing on their own health. The whole thing got me questioning if we aren’t being a little quick to judge and if, like so many things related to this plant, this correlation between smoking and inclusion is no longer so cut-and-dry (no pun intended).
Much of this preconception seems rooted in that old-school “are they a cop” mentality—the idea that, for starters, we need to see you get high in order to know you’re one of us. When the green rush spread over California, we used this litmus test to help identify individuals who were only hanging around for the money. Drinkers and non-drinkers alike will tell you they feel like a sore thumb when they’re at a bar without a glass. So anyone who wouldn’t hit the joint or didn’t know how to hold one was seen as a cash-grabbing outsider, (though it didn’t really prevent them from collecting the checks). I think most of us can agree we’ve long used smoking as a way to break the ice but much in the same way the business world treats booze, the industry and the scene too often takes how many dabs a person takes, or blunts they smoke as a reading of acumen instead of a reflection of their tolerance. I guess what I’m saying is, when someone says they don’t smoke, we might want to respectfully ask why instead of inquiring if the DMV had to list baby lungs on their driver’s license.
If you’re unsure as to if by not smoking someone is severing a connection to the source, you have only to look at Bask Triangle Farms in Spain, whose owner told me how, after seventeen years of smoking weed, he was suddenly faced with serious health issues and some even more difficult choices. Doctors told him that despite multiple surgeries on his lungs he could no longer smoke cannabis. The pill was a tough one to swallow for a person who’s been growing and smoking since they were in high school. Despite this, he’s kept a thriving connection to his work and his brand has gone on to dazzle judges at Europe’s Spannabis Champions Cup, Seville Cannabis Cup and Secret Cup Bizkaia. When I asked him if he felt quitting smoking had taken anything away from his growing or breeding, he said, “there is no one exclusive way to test the work of a breeder and hashmaker.” He described how, over time he’s developed other ways to connect to the plant, through edibles and even low-temp dabs and that none of it has severed his joy for the work. The journey has shown him that the inherent risks involved in smoking weed aren’t part of his connection to cannabis. When asked if doing away with joints and bongs has caused him to miss the next big strain in his R&D room he said absolutely not. While he personally sees maintaining some kind of weed in your system integral to staying on your game, as he put it, “there are many ways to understand, connect with, or use cannabis.” Looking at the list of multiple award-winning in-house crosses, I’d say he has a point.
Another example is The Real Cannabis Chris, a California grower and hashmaker who took a step back from smoking for over three years to work on his relationship with himself and others. After years of smoking and dabbing, he developed a social anxiety that made it difficult to connect with strangers and even loved ones. Chris talked about how, after making the difficult choice to focus on mental health, what started as a tolerance break grew into almost a year and that’s when he discovered that all energy he had been putting into smoking transferred into growing, both as a person and better plants. “I was more present in my life, in my relationships and in my garden and this led to asking more questions and looking for more answers.” This is how he developed the next phase of his connection to the plant. As more time passed, he began to notice all these new smells in the buds and in the jars. This evolved connection to his plants, combined with the one he shares with the team who help grow and taste the work, is what he attributes to creating a kitchen that has now won a slew of first prize wins, judge’s picks, and a chance to travel to Thailand to compete with players from around the world. Arguably one of the most awarded hashmakers of 2023, he points out that it wasn’t until well into this sabbatical that he began winning multiple accolades for his work.
When it comes to judging someone by their craft, well that’s the easy part. Things move awfully fast around here and if a person’s work doesn’t hold up, the community will absolutely let you know. When asked if they’ve received criticism from comrades or contemporaries for passing on the joint, Chris commented, “at first glance it’s easy to throw shade without an understanding. People might think I’m just in it for the money but what they don’t know is that I’ve been at this since i was basically a kid.” He mentioned how after a podcast joked that he hadn’t smoked in a decade, he received a ton of comments that were almost attacking his credibility. The situation prompted him to film a video discussing his three-and-a-half year break relating to a journey of mental health and the comments transformed into an overwhelming amount of responses from people who were thinking about taking their own break but wanted to know how he maintained his connection to the plant and the people while not puffing. Bask Triangle echoed a similar sentiment, “In this industry there is always someone who wants to speak badly about others and will use any reason to do so. But we should not waste time on such trifles and we must continue doing what each person likes the most, without paying attention to what others say.”
These are just two examples of how an individual can take a break or stop smoking altogether and discover new connections that enhance and compliment their work with cannabis while also focusing on something we take for granted: health. It’s something that we should really give more space to, and if that leads you to a different place in your cannabis journey, I’ll still welcome you around the water cooler. I think we’ll probably always have a hiccup with people who are in the room but don’t have a connection to growing, tending, or consuming cannabis but if you want to know if a person choosing to go off the sauce matters, maybe ask them the follow-up of how they’re doing. I’ve learned a lot about not making split judgements on someone choosing not to smoke or to take a break and that surviving alongside this plant and the mileage this life puts on the car often runs deeper than what you see out at the session. As far as judging a person by how much of their jar they smoke when they sit down, why not see how much of it you smoke instead.