With the start of summer and the loosening of restrictions put in place in response to the coronavirus outbreak, people from all walks of life are ready to party again. With new cases and deaths falling dramatically, CDC guidance has changed to include indoor gatherings of vaccinated people without facemasks. The number of fully vaccinated people continues to rise, and some cannabis activists and brands have encouraged the effort by offering free weed for getting the Covid-19 vaccine.
But as folks begin to get together again, some old habits are being looked at in a new light. A prime example can be found among the cannabis crowd, long known for its generous custom of sharing joints communally, even with strangers. And word among friends and on social media indicates that some in the cannabis tribe are eager to return to the old ways and have already begun to pass joints among friends again.
But is it safe? Are there alternatives to sharing the same old joints, pipes and bongs as we escape the grip of Covid-19? What are the options for a safer post-pandemic pot party?
Puff, Puff, Pass
As it turns out, those already sharing again will probably be fine, provided everyone has been vaccinated. Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, a UCSF professor of medicine and infectious disease specialist, said that in communities with high vaccination rates (San Francisco’s has exceeded 80% of eligible residents), passing joints among friends who have received the shot is most likely safe.
“There’s very little risk of sharing any of these bongs or devices,” Chin-Hong told SFWeekly. “If someone is vaccinated, and you’re sharing with another vaccinated person, vaccinated people sharing with each other are generally safe.”
If, however, you’re not quite ready to return to the days of “puff, puff, pass,” there are alternate ways to share cannabis with friends.
After first debuting in the 1970s, the PowerHitter was reintroduced to a new audience only months before the coronavirus pandemic made headlines. Essentially a large plastic bottle with a special cap to hold a joint inside, a simple squeeze sends out a jet of marijuana smoke to be inhaled without the lips touching the device. And if one person does all the squeezing, it can be enjoyed by a group of friends without being passed hand to hand.
“Although the PowerHitter has been around for decades and has always been praised for its contactless delivery as a safer way to share, when we relaunched it for the holiday season 2019, we could have never predicted COVID-19 coming just a few months later,” Allen Stein, the designer of the updated device, tells me in an email. “Obviously, it wasn’t planned, but we couldn’t have released it at a better time.”
Enjoying marijuana with friends enters the realm of the cocktail party with cannabis beverages, one of the hottest sectors of the regulated market. Instead of passing a joint around, weed drinks give everybody their own dose of cannabis to enjoy. Cannabis beverages can be made at home, or find prepared options in most states with legalized marijuana. Keef Brands CEO Travis Tharpe says that his company’s beverages, which are available in seven states and Puerto Rico, give friends a safer option for sharing cannabis.
“In addition to the celebratory, fun and social components of Keef Brands’ cannabis beverages, we offer a more approachable and discreet way to consume, which is especially appealing to newer cannabis users and the canna-curious,” Tharpe says in a virtual interview.
For folks who swear by passing the dutchie but want to put some separation between their lips and the joint, giving everybody their own MouthPeace Mini by Moose Labs may be just the solution. The device grips joints and vape pens securely, and a built-in activated carbon filter captures tar and resin.
“Think of the MouthPeace Mini as PPE for consuming cannabis,” says Jay Rush, co-founder of Moose Labs. “Not only is the MouthPeace Mini useful for sharing joints with smaller groups of friends, it is also helpful to have in your back pocket when heading into a big gathering where joints or vape pens might be passed around.”
Or, for those who prefer a bong or dab rig, the original MouthPeace has been a staple on the cannabis event circuit for years, putting a layer of separation between the user and shared smoking and vaping devices.
Roll Small Joints
Simple changes to habits can also make sharing cannabis safer in a post-pandemic world. There is no rule that says friends smoking marijuana must limit themselves to one joint. Instead, rolling several smaller joints so everyone has their own eliminates the need for everyone to handle and smoke the same joint. Alternately, two friends can share a single joint or blunt broken in half before lighting. If rolling isn’t your strong point, California cannabis brand Wyllow makes it easy with their mini-prerolls, which weigh in at a quarter of a gram of premium cannabis flower each and come in two-packs for easy sharing.
Of course, it will be up to all cannabis consumers to decide their personal comfort level regarding sharing marijuana with friends as Covid-19 subsides. And some suggest that a complete return to the way things were isn’t necessary, or even desirable. Steve Bloom, former editor of High Times and founder of cannabis entertainment website CelebStoner, wrote in a blog post that it might be time to retire some classic marijuana norms.
“Americans should adopt the European and Jamaican custom of rolling joints for oneself and generally not sharing. It’s just not necessary,” Bloom wrote. “Sharing is a counterculture tradition dating back to the ’60s. Then, cannabis was often not plentiful, so sharing was necessary. Legalization has resulted in increased availability. Why share when there’s so much to go around? Yes, share cannabis, but not from hand to hand and mouth to mouth.”