An outreach director for a Northern Virginia nonprofit group found himself rejected when an elementary school teacher and good friend declined to attend one of his parties. The friend had suspected, correctly, that pot smoking would abound.
“She didn’t want to be associated with it,” the 25-year-old said, adding that the prospect of appearing on a tagged Facebook photo scared her off more than anything.
To satisfy smoking friends without offending nonsmokers, some Washington-area hosts simply exclude nonsmokers from events where marijuana may be present.
“I get invited to the Super Bowl party and eat pizza,” said John Wetmore, a Maryland television producer. “But they don’t tell me about the party planned for a week later where people are going to get out the weed. Which is fine; it can prevent some awkward moments.”
But it can also lead to hurt feelings.
To avoid that, some hosts try to bridge the gap by invoking the take- it-outside rule, but that’s not effective in all instances.
Andrea Khoury, who founded the popular parenting site Real Housewives of Northern Virginia, says that when friends and neighbors come over to her Fairfax County home for a dinner or a glass of wine, they would be wrong to think her yard was free terrain for smoking pot. “My neighborhood is prim and proper,” she said. “I think people would consider smoking around others, even outside, disrespectful.” (And, lest we forget, it is still illegal.)
It is a refrain heard often in a city where many residents — White House staffers, congressional aides, defense contractors, sundry government workers — hold jobs that require security clearances.
“You never want to put anyone in a compromising situation,” said a Columbia Heights political reporter who writes for a popular online journal.
He’s been to small D.C. dinner parties that include marijuana, but smokers are unequivocally discreet, more so than in other places he has lived.
“Someone might say: ‘Do you want to come upstairs?’ It’s just understood, and you disappear for a while. When you come back downstairs the people who are downstairs know not to ask anything. You just carry on.”
Etiquette experts say simple discretion is key.
“There is definitely something known as too much information,” said Jodi R. Smith, the author of five books about social guidelines, including “The Etiquette Book: A Complete Guide To Modern Manners.” In other words, there’s no need to tell your Great-Aunt Tilly, the strait-laced mother of your kid’s best friend or your boss that after your dinner with them, you plan to spark up a joint.
If you are in a social setting in which the host has okayed an after-dinner puff, Smith advises pot smokers to treat their stash as they would a bottle of brandy or a box of Godiva chocolates. “If you’re not willing to share, don’t take it out,” she said.
But what if you’re the host, as we were recently, and it’s your guest who wants to smoke? Do modern manners call upon you to say yes?
Absolutely not, said Cindy Post Senning, a co-director of the Emily Post Institute in Burlington, Vt. “It’s your house. And you have every right to set the standards of behavior.”
No doubt, it can all seem very prickly. But Post Senning, who has closely monitored shifting opinions on cigarette smoking, cellphone use and texting, says there is an end in sight. “We’ll have marijuana anarchy,” she said. “Then the rules will evolve.”
Kyle Spencer is a freelance writer.