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Originally published December 21, 2013 at 7:57 PM | Page modified December 21, 2013 at 8:55 PM

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Tokin’ around the Christmas tree: Pot etiquette for parties

What’s the etiquette for legal pot at holiday parties? There’s no reason to consider pot secretive and gross, say party planners, so proceed accordingly.


Seattle Times staff reporter

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You’re basking in the warm glow of your smashing holiday party. Food, friends, ugly sweaters, sedated in-laws — it’s all coming together.

Then a sweet aroma tickles your nostrils. Someone is smoking marijuana.

What do you do? What’s the new pot etiquette?

In Seattle, 74 percent of the electorate voted last year to legalize weed. Cops handed out Doritos at Hempfest. Even the federal Department of Justice waved us on, saying we could go ahead with our responsible approach to a grand experiment.

Who are you to “just say no” to the people?

“At this point in Washington there’s no need to relegate marijuana to something secretive and gross unless you see it that way,” said Aviva Palmer, CEO of a Seattle event-planning company, The Adventure School.

No doubt there are potheads at your bash. According to the latest research from the RAND Institute, roughly 1 in 9 Washington adults toked in the past month.

Surely the number is higher in the Emerald City, where dispensaries outnumber CrossFit gyms.

“It’s your neighbor the accountant who is all of the sudden lighting up,” said party planner Kelli Bielema, owner of Shindig Events.

Bielema said she’s been asked about arranging parties where pot was present, even featured. “I had a couple that inquired about a wedding and they wanted to keep it secret from mom and specifically wanted a pot-hangout area,” said Bielema.

You survey the scene at your party.

Is it time to end the stigma and bring reefer off the sidewalks? We’ve had legal pot for a year with little noticeable impact — other than a couple of suspended Seahawks.

If you’re Scott Dickinson, a young lawyer hosting a big party in Montlake with his partner, Blake Mann, a physician, you don’t allow any smoking in your house. Why make an exception for that skunky weed?

“That’s not going to happen,” said Dickinson, who expects about 75 guests, including kids, along with chocolate Bundt cake and a signature eggnog cocktail, involving bourbon and 7 Up.

There’s another consideration. While liquor is a social lubricant, marijuana can have the opposite effect. Remember how it made you all self-conscious and quiet when you were younger? Today’s pot is much stronger. Instead of dispensing cheer you might end up drooling on a guest.

Don’t forget, though, that there are two kinds of marijuana readily available in our wonderland of weed — indica, which often has its origins in Afghanistan, and induces couch-lock, experts say; and sativa, from equatorial zones, more likely to induce housecleaning.

“I have friends who are probably better socially when they have a toke,” said Bielema. “It’s also a social experience when you’re passing a joint or sharing a bong.”

At a holiday party those folks are likely to do what pot-smokers have been doing since Bob Dylan turned on The Beatles in a hotel room with towels under the door.

They’ll discreetly round up the usual suspects and step outside. “They don’t just light up in your living room, with your toddler there, especially anyone who is seasoned in doing it. They definitely have their routine,” said Bielema.

That’s it? Let them step outside?

End of story?

Not so fast.

“The basic gist is that if you want to have marijuana out at a party,” said Palmer, “you should treat it just like you would cocktails or anything else you are offering at your event: Display stylishly, fit with your theme, and make it available for all. If you want people to smoke outside then put it with an outside bar and a small sign.”

Devereaux Riddell is hosting a party for dozens at a downtown condo building. There’s no smoking of any kind inside and the patio off the building’s event room is off-limits, too close to an entrance for smoking under state law.

No problem, said Riddell, 26. She can’t see pot “being a common thing at parties,” she said.

What about edibles? Truffles, brownies, gluten-free cookies — all laced with pot. They’re smokeless and jolly.

“If my aunt happened to chomp on a few it would make the party that much more entertaining,” said Dickinson, who doesn’t consume.

Edibles could be cool, said Riddell, another nonuser. “My concern is someone is going to accidentally consume them.”

That can be treacherous. You know the problem with edibles. You eat half a brownie and don’t feel anything for an hour. You eat the other half and end up trying to take your pants off over your head.

(Or, if you’re like KQED reporter Michael Montgomery, you might end up so high — with extreme paranoia and crippling self-doubt — that you walk off a scheduled flight, and spend four hours waiting in the terminal until you feel safe about getting back on a plane.)

That’s why the state requires this warning label for edibles: “Caution: When eaten or swallowed, the intoxicating effects of this drug may be delayed by two or more hours.”

Bielema advises signage — little tent cards perhaps with a playful message — or passing a tray of goodies, along with a verbal tip about the ingredients.

But this is Seattle. We’re liberal, but now we’ll get to find out whether we’re too reserved to fly our freak-flag in public.

“If you don’t want it, stick to your guns,” said Bielema. “Have them go outside, most would do that anyway.”

Times staff researchers Gene Balk and Miyoko Wolf contributed to this report.

Bob Young: 206-464-2174 or byoung@seattletimes.com

On Twitter: @potreporter



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