Proper Joint-Smoking Etiquette
Guess what? If you can roll a joint, you’ll never be short a few friends to help you smoke it. On the other hand, if someone wants to share their joint with you, you had better know what to do with it so they’ll share again in the future! Joints are a quick and easy way to smoke cannabis—perfect for kicking back and relaxing with a cup of coffee or some great food. They also hold a nostalgic link to the Hippie roots of cannabis’s rise to popularity in the Sixties and the classic stoner comedy films of the Eighties and Nineties. This is a guide to teach you the ins and outs of packing, rolling, smoking, passing, and pitching a joint so you do it the right way—and with some style.
Packing and Rolling
There are basically two ways to make a joint, you can roll one yourself or buy a pre-made cone that you pack with your own supply. It might seem easier to grind up some flower and stuff it into a paper, but the result is prone to runs, blockage, and potentially a lot of wasted weed (we prefer to call it cannabis, but SEO dictates we use “weed” at least three times per article.) Still, it’s technically easier if you’ve never rolled before. To guide the weed into the joint tube, crease a card to use as a funnel, pour it in, then tamp it down with a pen, pencil, or anything pokey. Once it’s full, pinch the paper at the wide end of the joint and give it a few quick shakes to get your weed to pack more tightly in the bottom.
Packing a joint tube isn’t very satisfying, but you can take pride in rolling your own joints by hand. Rolling a joint is mechanically simple, but artistically delicate work. The best way to learn is to practice and know that you can always tear it open and try again if you don’t like the result. No one’s watching you, and if they are, you may be practicing wrong.
To roll a joint, you’ll need three things: a rolling paper, a crutch, and ground cannabis flower. What’s a crutch? Well, it’s a thin strip of notecard or business card that you’ll roll into a tiny cylinder for the base of the joint—about the size and shape of the filter on a cigarette. Don’t use an actual cotton filter tip or it might filter out the cannabinoids that are the reason you’re smoking in the first place. You want to make the crutch first, so it gives your joint structure as you fill it.
Take your rolling paper and open it up so it makes a v-shaped trough. Hold the paper in your dominant hand with the gum-strip facing you and place the crutch under your thumb. You should now have a little paper trough into which you can sprinkle your ground cannabis. Try to distribute it evenly in the paper, filling the trough about halfway to the gum-strip. Get ready for the tricky part!
Using your less-dominant hand, press both sides of the paper flat against each other, enveloping the cannabis inside. Hold it tight so you can reposition your dominant hand to do the same for the crutch end. Now, holding both sides of the paper against each other with both hands, slide the front up and down against the back. This will pack the joint down to a tiny little cylinder. You’ll have to go by feel to tell when it’s packed tight enough, but don’t go too tight. If your joint is as solid as a stick, it will smoke just as poorly.
Now the tricky part: when you’re happy with the consistency, slide your side of the paper down until you can just see the green edge of the cannabis inside, then lightly lick the gum-strip. Now all you have to do is roll it the rest of the way up, and you’ve got a joint! You can light it up right away, or twist closed the open end if you want to save it for later.
Do you have a joint? Friends? Awesome! You’re already doing it right. If you rolled it, you get to light it. If someone else threw down on what’s inside, they get to be on your left for the next hit (traditionally). But before you put it in your mouth and smoke it, there are a couple of things to keep in mind.
Don’t go deep with the joint.
It’s not a lollipop, it’s a piece of paper, and if you slobber all over it, you’ll be passing a soggy mess that nobody wants to hit, especially right now (2021, but also in general). If you don’t want to share, just say so, don’t ruin a good thing. The joint shouldn’t go past your teeth. Hold it up to your lips rather than between them.
Draw slowly or you’ll burn your throat.
Don’t take a huge, deep breath, it’s more like sipping through a straw. If you draw the smoke into your mouth first, it has the chance to cool before you send it deeper into your lungs. Then, when you do inhale, open your mouth a little to let in some fresh air. That also helps prevent coughing.
Puff, puff, pass. Take two hits, then pass it to your left.
Or, when among friends, pass it to the left hand of the person to the right of you. Some people will tell you “right is tight,” and hey—we don’t judge—but the important thing to remember is that the joint is not a talking stick. You don’t have to hit it, but you do have to pass it.
Proper passing technique means you’ll be able to get the spliff (that’s what they call joints in Europe) from your hand to your friends’ without anyone’s fingers being singed or clothes getting burnt. It’s a stoner comedy cliché to drop a joint in a car and instigate a cartoonish catastrophe, but that shouldn’t be your fate. Unless that car is parked, you shouldn’t be smoking. Unless your car is your permanent domicile, it’s probably illegal to smoke there anyway. The best way to pass it is to hold the joint as low on the crutch as you can with the lit end pointing straight up. Hold it lightly and allow your friend to take it out of your hand. Don’t release it, that’s how you drop a joint, just let them remove it.
There will come a point where the joint is too short to continue. It is a sad time, but all good things must come to an end. You can decide to go ahead and throw it away, or you can attempt a more advanced technique: the three-fingered pass. When the joint has burned down almost to a roach, squeeze the side of the crutch (aren’t you glad we told you to use a crutch?) between your thumb and forefinger. Your friend will do the same on the other side, then you just have to push it against their fingertips with your forefinger until they take it away.
This takes practice, so don’t try it with someone the first time you smoke with them. You need to build up some joint-passing rapport, this is a real thing, we did not make that up. Trust is the first rule of sharing weed with friends. Or having friends at all.
When you’re done with the joint, what do you do with the roach? Some people eat it,—and they’re not entirely wrong about how that works,—but that would taste disgusting and probably make you sick. That practice was more common during Prohibition, along with people saving their roaches in case they ran out of cannabis (not as much a problem anymore). If it came to it, they could pack the roaches into a pipe and smoke that. Disgusting!
That’s all behind us now. Now, there are only two things to worry about: making sure it’s completely out, and keeping it away from kids. Most joints are biodegradable and can be responsibly buried in your backyard. Others you can throw away in ashtrays or trashcans, but always on your own property or where you have express permission to dispose of your joints. Don’t them on the ground or in bodies of water where small humans (we call them kids here) or animals might be tempted to ingest them. You don’t want anyone to have a bad time. If someone is having a bad time because of you, you are not having a good time.
“But wait, why do they call it a joint?” we hear you asking. You might like our article about popular cannabis slang origins, where we discuss the history of “joint,” “bong,” and even “marijuana.”