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The Origins Of Puff, Puff, Pass: How The Practice Started & How It’s Evolved

The Origins Of Puff, Puff, Pass: How The Practice Started & How It’s Evolved

The etiquette of smoking cannabis can often feel like an unwritten code. Specific rules that go unsaid yet create a norm around cannabis culture. Film, music, and art influenced by marijuana engrained some of these norms into the culture, while others are spiritual and religious rituals interpreted through scriptures. Today, we’re taking a closer look at all of the history behind, and how times have changed regarding, the iconic notion of “puff, puff, pass.”

Socially, the rules are interpreted differently depending on the era or setting. Walk into most festival crowds, and you’ve likely found a spliff passed in your direction without knowing who lit it up. We aren’t recommending that you toke on any unknown substances, but cannabis culture centers around the idea of sharing and showing love to one another. The beauty of a joint is that it brings people together, breaking boundaries in most settings.

Puff, puff, pass is the unwritten code of most smoke circles where a joint or spliff, also called a pre-roll, is passed around from smoker to smoker. If you go to a party or have a few friends over, the etiquette is to light one up, puff on it twice, and then pass it to your left. That way, everyone in your circle gets to share the experience, everyone gets a decent inhale on their turn, and there’s a clear limit so no one hogs all of the heady bud.

Per Cannabis Now, back in the 60s and 70s, “bogart” was used for someone hogging the spliff, and passing to the left was a rule reportedly adapted from Rastafarian during spiritual rituals, where they would pass their joints clockwise. Rolling up with the purpose of sharing has been commonplace for decades, but the term “puff, puff, pass,” however, wasn’t necessarily coined until after the hippie era.

People are iffy about the rule, though. Some people follow these rules so closely that a third puff comes across as a sign of disrespect. However, some might not consider the fact that cannabis is medicine, first and foremost. Patients aren’t necessarily only packing pre-rolled joints for a good time – some are trying to alleviate their ailments.

The author of the Cannabis Now Piece, “Where Did the Term’ Puff, Puff, Pass’ Come From?” shared that they’re a medical cannabis patient themselves and reiterated how medicinal cannabis is their preferred and the best way to cope with their condition. The expectation that every circle must oblige to the puff, puff, pass rule can often create a sense of guilt or pressure if they choose not to share. It’s particularly offputting, as well, since most medical cannabis patients have high bills for their medication. “If I roll it, it’s a big bummer,” they wrote. “You just don’t know what everybody else’s etiquette is.” 

And that’s exactly it – the etiquette for smoking circles varies, depending on who you’re around and the setting. Plus, there are genuine risks attached to passing a joint around, especially with people you don’t know very well (or, sometimes, maybe meeting for the first time at a concert or party). Passing around joints, cigarettes, or even e-cigs is a sure way of spreading germs, no matter how healthy you are. But if you are ill in any way, chances are it’ll be passed on to your buddies in the circle. The possibility of getting sick became especially problematic during the pandemic. The Canadian Centre On Substance Abuse and Addiction issued a warning to cannabis consumers just as the pandemic struck, warning people not to share joints, glass pipes, vapes, or other smoking devices. 

Simply put, the ‘puff, puff, pass’ tradition might be a bit dated for some whose use of cannabis isn’t merely a way to liven up a Saturday night. For every stoner, it’s necessary to be mindful of everyone’s preferences and own norms regarding smoking. Sharing cannabis can be a moment to bond with others, though perhaps you’re better off bringing a few personal joints, just in case people aren’t interested in passing theirs around.

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