From Sharing To Selfish: Can The Cannabis Community's Ethos Survive COVID-19?
It’s been nearly three months since the statewide stay-at-home order began. The Los Angeles County Department of Health reports 54,996 cases of COVID-19 as of June 1, 2020. Despite California being one of the first states to enact orders including quarantine and social distancing, case numbers continue to rise.
On May 12th, Mayor Garcetti and Los Angeles County health officials announced that stay-at-home orders could be extended three more months if conditions do not change. For “huggers” and “close talkers” it will be an adjustment. There will be multiple others. Will we allow a friend to cook afte touching ingredients? Will we take a sip of somebody’s cocktail? Will we be willing to surround ourselves with barely clad, sweating bodies in yoga class? Will we sit at a bar or a restaurant table? Will we trust a stranger, no matter how intriguing once we swipe right? Once “normalcy” returns, there will be a one hundred and eighty degree paradigm shift as to both the nature and future of socialization.
The ethos of sharing is a fundamental aspect of cannabis culture, built around the Rastafarian notion of ‘puff, puff, pass.’ Bringing cannabis anywhere, culturally implores you to share it. “When you go into a bar, rarely will a stranger invite you into their group and offer a sip of a beer; with cannabis, the circle always opens. We are inclusive and welcoming”, stated my favorite and most articulate pioneer, Steve DeAngelo. He should know, being one of the quintessential circle openers.
“Cannabis culture is at its core, about inclusion” he added. When asked about the rules of cannabis etiquette, Lizzie Post, author of Higher Etiquette proclaimed that sharing is integral. “The act of sharing is at the forefront of the cannabis community… if you… have weed, and you… light… up, offering to share it with someone is huge,” said Post in an interview with Vox.
Efforts to flatten the curve are progressing at a snail’s pace, and the time frame to get lives back could extend beyond 2020. The mere thought of hosting an in-person event, conference or tradeshow in the near future is now the stuff of fantasy.
Dr. Mary Clifton, a medical cannabis practitioner in New York explained that ventilation is one of the most important factors to consider. “It will be essential going forward that events are properly ventilated. Air circulation is critical and outdoor appears to be safer than indoor. Mandating face masks and taking temperatures on entry will also be important.”
“Sharing joints is over, a reason I’ve been using ‘PJ’s (personal joints) for years” said Rama Mayo, the multi-faceted co-founder of Green Street, one of the industry’s leading brand and marketing companies and well as Hall of Flowers, the leading brand expo conference. Mr. Mayo told me that, “We are rethinking our event model balancing customer needs with health and safety standards. Sampling, booth placement, food, flow, capacity and more will be reconfigured. The opening of our state of the art 60,000 square foot cannabis event epicenter in DTLA is delayed and our approach in flux. Hall of Flowers will launch a suite of digital solutions and evolve to new standards”.
Cannabis Chef and Founder of OG Kitchen, Jason Harley doesn’t have plans for events, but intends to welcome dinner party guests with a temperature check when they begin. “This will occur at a separate check-in point, far from others” said Harley. “We’ll use a non-intrusive digital thermometer which will become the norm.” Harley typically caters events ranging in size from intimate to a 500-person birthday extravaganza for Tommy Chong with multiple infused plates.
One LA based company, Stori Technologies, may have a solution for a healthy event, meal, shopping or workplace. It pivoted from creating digital content with new age photo booths to focusing on the reduction of virus anxiety and increased public safety. Founder, Tamer Abdel told me that, “With a now indefinite hold on events, Public Well-Being Technology created a software platform to monitor the health of customer-facing employees which can also be used for the public at any entry point. We developed a digital thermometer and camera that not only checks temperatures at any entrance but it then allows real-time monitoring using a scanable QR code” said Abdel.
Rachel Burkons, a thought-leader in the onsite consumption space and Co-Founder of Altered Plates, a hospitality consulting group, recognizes that events will require additional forethought. “Hosting an event post-Covid raises the question of degree of comfort levels. I myself would not be comfortable with almost anything right now” said Burkons. “Communal cannabis culture is a potential liability. At a wine tasting, guests don’t pass glasses among themselves. At many events samples of products are offered, creating the potential for germ exposure; offering consumption free of charge has led to disregard of hygiene”.
At last years Emerald Cup in Sonoma, the last pre-Covid event for most of us, I was repeatedly amazed at the long lines of people waiting for a free bong hit or dab. The majority of them were placing their mouth on a device without sanitizing it with alcohol. I asked the brand ambassador of companies on average how many mouths sample a device. Even pre-Covid, I was surprised and disgusted to learn that that it can range from hundreds to thousands. Something tells me the mere presence of alcohol wipes won’t be enough for comfort in a post-COVID world.
LA-based cannabis accessory company, Moose Labs received calls from frazzled event planners trying to place large orders for the company’s sanitation consumption accessory. The “MouthPeace” is a silicone device that prevents direct contact with a device’s potential bacteria and/or viruses. The patent-pending, universal MouthPeace comes with a disposable filter which uses activated carbon and triple filtration to remove resins, contaminants and tar from inhales. This should reduce coughing, a major concern with smokers in close quarters and more so post-Covid.
Developed before Covid but perfectly timed, the MouthPeace could be the toilet paper and Clorox Wipes of post-Covid devices.
“Hopefully, when events begin, sanitation and heath will be taken more seriously. It was a major problem pre-pandemic” Dan Rush, the Moose Labs Co-Founder told me. “Offering personal MouthPeaces is a good start. As with personal information, sharing is one thing, oversharing is another. Part of Rush and brother Jay’s motivation to create a product that promotes smoking personal hygiene was due to what they witnessed at a High Times Cannabis Cup event where nearly ten thousand hits occurred on a single bong in a weekend. Changing the communal nature won’t happen overnight. Jay Rush, recognizes this, but some restrictions will become necessary. “I’ll welcome a friend to smoke my weed but not out of my bong without using a Mouthpeace. Being mindful about how you are sharing is what’s important and we’ve made it easy for consumers to do so. Guests may soon be requested to bring their own devices”.
“The most meaningful part of sharing isn’t the consumption method, it’s the social experience of communing and bonding” added DeAngelo. “The cannabis tribe is supremely flexible; we had a virtual smoke session attended by hundreds to celebrate a dear friend’s birthday without even passing a device. We will simply maintain traditions of sharing post-Covid in new ways”. In the end, health and safety will prevail for most despite tradition. In the short term however, smoking, toking, and dabbing may be a just a little bit less social.
Noticias sobre cannabis en Español en El Planteo.
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