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Do You Know These Stoner Superstitions About Cannabis Rules and Etiquette?

September 23, 2016
A marijuana leaf, still on the plant, is featured in this horizontal photo. The leaf's saw-tooth edges are clearly visible and fade out of focus in teh foreground, allowing more space for ad blocks and text. The greenery behind the foreground is crisp. There is adequate room below the focal point for text or corporate logos.
For thousands of years, plants have been used in primitive worship, creating a tradition of lore and superstition. In perpetual awe of the supernatural environment growing around them, ancient cultures intrinsically linked the euphoric and invigorating effects of plants to their own human spirituality and medicine.

Similar to tobacco, cannabis has always held its own mythology. Even Jesus himself was said to pack strong anointing oil with cannabis extract called kaneh-bosem when he performed healing miracles.

“It won’t kill you…unless a bale of it falls on you.”
Willie Nelson

Today cannabis consumers continue these inherited practices. Good or bad, here’s a list of common and not-so-common cannabis superstitions many enthusiasts have believed and continue to abide by lest they want to be cursed with bad luck (or, worse yet, bad bud).

Puff, Puff, Pass

Take two hits at most and pass it on. That’s it. Smoking or vaping cannabis with your friends and/or family is not the time to be selfish. The first puff is polite, the second shows you really enjoy the herb, but a third puff means you’re a glutton and don’t respect the cannabis; therefore, you’re susceptible to bad luck. Sharing is caring, and there’s been plenty of warning in contemporary western culture about this cannabis smoking ritual.

The bluegrass rock ‘n’ roll band Little Feat entices smokers with friendship if they pass it on, in their 1968 classic song, “Don’t Bogart that Joint.”

Don’t bogart that joint, my friend
Pass it over to me.
Don’t bogart that joint, my friend
Pass it over to me.

Roll another one
Just like the other one.
This one’s burnt to the end
Come on and be a friend.

In Friday, the 1995 cult classic, Smokey reminds Craig, “Puff puff, give. Puff puff, give. You fuckin’ up the rotation.”

With so many references, it definitely seems that this practice can either make you feel better about yourself or bring misfortune if you screw up the rotation. Even worse, if you totally skip someone, your karma could forever be in jeopardy!

Pass to the Left 

Soft drugs
The cannabis smoker’s circle is sacrilegious and should always start to the left, meaning whoever lights the joint or starts the bowl must pass to the left or face horrible hardship. This superstition to pass to the left may have been started by American hippies in the 1960’s because most Deadheads continue to honor the tradition today.

However, another motive could stem from the Victorian-era butler service in which butlers notably present a platter of food choices from the left of their master or guest. Also known as silver service, food is always served to the left to make guests feel less crowded by someone hanging over them with both arms suddenly coming at them left and right.

Pass to the right and be condemned or mocked by the elite old school cannabis club. It’s bad etiquette and is known to bring disruptive energy into the circle.

 Never Hit a Bowl First if You Load It

Marijuana Pipe, grinder and nug.

Whether you’re packing a pipe or loading bong loads for a few smokers, never hit the bowl first. Be the host with the most. Be gracious.

This attitude of gift giving is not new; it’s reflected in many cultures. The Japanese are known for giving presents to their guests and business associates. Never be a tightwad when it comes to your cannabis community, or you’ll be labeled a hoarder and find yourself in a smoking circle where the bowl turns ash before it even gets to you.


No surprise to most cannabis heads, 420 is the magical “meeting of the minds” number, the communal worldwide time to smoke out. As the saying goes, “it’s 420 somewhere!”

The myth behind 420 is attributed to a Northern California police code for marijuana smoking in progress, which dates back to the 1970’s, but the actual origin comes from a group of high school students in Northern California who would meet at 4:20 to smoke up and search for a fabled lost cannabis grow.


Debunking 4/20: Separating Facts From Fiction

Regardless of its origins, cannabis enthusiasts began using 420 as their own code to smoke. Whether it’s 4:20 a.m. or 4:20 p.m., when the clock strikes, superstitious smokers lighting up think they’ll gain happiness and prosperity. Smokers can fortuitously run into each other at this revered time, and the more people smoking the merrier. Miss a 420 and you will find distress in your day. Smoking on April 20th is an extra bonus and means good luck for the rest of year.

The White Lighter “Curse”

White blank gas lighter mock up stand isolated.
This superstition is serious. While its inception is debated, the most likely source is in connection to the tragic fate of superstar cannabis-smoking musicians Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, and Jimi Hendrix, who all happened to be left-handed, die at age 27, and allegedly had a white lighter at the scene of their death.

Cannabis had absolutely nothing to do with how they died, but the white lighter is forever cursed. Smoking cannabis with one carries extremely negative vibes. The bad juju can lead to broken bongs, getting busted, or even having your grow ruined by weather. Avoid using a white lighter to smoke cannabis at all costs or suffer certain catastrophe.

Choke on Your Hit and You Will Get Socked

Arm and fist against white background

If a cannabis smoker can’t handle their hit, beware, because the closest person can deliver a dead arm right at them. An old family fear, this alarming superstition developed when younger puffers who couldn’t hold their hit became vulnerable to the somewhat humorous ruffian tactics of their elder smoker.

Possibly derived from the 1960’s car game Punch Buggy/Slug Bug, in which players who see a Volkswagen Beetle on the road first can punch each other in the arm, choking on a hit off a joint, pipe, or bongload is awful luck. The person you’re smoking with can leave you with a bruised arm and ego if you’re caught gasping for air mid-hit.

What are your cannabis superstitions? Share your favorite myths and we’ll see who else has played along with your rules.

Trina Calderón's Bio Image

Trina Calderón

Trina Calderón’s books include Wall Writers, Pump Me Up: DC Subcultures of the 1980’s, Risk: Old Habits Die Hard, and 9:30 Club - A Time and a Place. She co-executive produced BBC America's The Nerdist TV show and co-wrote the feature film Down for Life. Calderón lives in Los Angeles and specializes in writing about art, music, and food subculture, aiming to add a voice where mainstream media does not. She can be reached on Twitter and Instagram under @trinaluz.

View Trina Calderón's articles

  • Sergio Farias

    I don’t follow any of these rules. I simply vaporize and share.

    • Smooth to Operate

      You don’t give your guest the ‘green hit”? (first hit)

  • Laura Ham

    I always heard that “if you don’t cough, you won’t get off “. That, of course, is false but I do cough more with the better quality smoke. And I have never been punched for coughing.

    • Alex

      And I have never been punched for coughing.

      Me either. I’ve never even heard of that. Punching me is a great way to guarantee that I never smoke with you again, though.

      • Dehart Connections

        ot true

  • Brendan Clark

    I’ve actually never heard the white lighter one or the dead arm one. Where I’m from (st Louis. missouri) the superstition actually revolves around yellow lighters and not white ones!

    • Blake

      Really? That’s interesting. I still avoid white lighters, which means that when they are out of normal Bics and I have to buy one of the design ones I throw it away if the design starts peeling off.

      I have no idea why. I just can’t bring myself to use one.

  • Joanna Sarah Peña

    LADIES GET GREENS FIRST. if the industry is going to exploit the female form and continue to paint us out as topless, clueless bimbos… at least let us get the first hit.

    • Superdude

      Haha, no way I believe in equality. Kidding, My GF always hits first but mostly cause Im nice and you never take first hit of a bowl you pack. 🙂 I do disagree with the exploiting the female in the marketing tho. I would never try a product like bloombastic that had to use sex to sell a product. Tells me the product needs something other than its self to perform. Its seems to me that the issue you are bringing up has nothing to do with cannabis, because they all do this, but more to do with what sells to men.

    • TeleTransOne

      There is enough gynocentrism in society; we don’t need more of it. Pot smoking is a gender neutral activity. I shouldn’t automatically smoke first because I am a woman. Men should have equal access to the green hit as women. #MRA

      • Alex

        Are you seriously claiming to be a woman and spouting MRA talking points?

    • Texx Smith

      Nope, Nice try though!

  • BenCon

    Oh and ALWAYS hit corners. Its just rude to take a whole green bowl in the first hit.

  • Superdude

    Ive never seen a white lighter in the five packs I buy so I dont think its an issue. Im also past the age of those people too…

  • TeleTransOne

    This is the first I have heard of the white lighter curse. I have two lighters from Bay Area dispensaries. Both are white with dispensary branding. Those have been my main pot lighters until I got my vape. No curse here; just excellent medicine.

  • cristala

    “…a third puff means you’re a glutton and don’t respect the cannabis?” Hmmm. Apparently people have never smoked with Rastas or others that pray with their spliff and do not pass it around, it is a prayer smoke and personal. In fact, it is completely rude to interrupt someone who may be sitting in quiet meditation with their medicine just because you want a hit. Also rude to interrupt two other people who may be sharing a private toking moment. Rude to assume someone is a “glutton” when you may not even understand they may be holding it “too long” because they are having a personal moment with the plant. puff pass is an entitlement mentality. Always good to share if voluntary, doesn’t need this rule, rules need to be more aware of other cultures.

    • Mikon

      I’m pretty sure that was intended to reference a communal sharing circle, not an individual communing with the sacred herb. Clearly, if someone is by themselves, not offering or inviting others this “rule” doesn’t apply. Likewise if two or three have a private rotation this wouldn’t apply. But many people enjoy cannabis in a group or social setting and this IS appropriate and applicable then. I’m sure, if someone has their eyes closed and is clearly having a moment no one will bother them. But if Johnny, in the group, is holding on to it joking and talking, it’s kind of rude. Pass it on and don’t Bogart it!

  • hyjyljyj

    Half of these I’ve never heard of, and I’ve been smoking weed for 40 years, all over the country and in Europe. We always pass in whatever direction we want, use whatever lighter happens to be available, never use violence on each other for coughing, and understand that 4:20 was invented by Brad Bann, a.k.a. “B.B.” or “the Bebe”, in October 1970.

    Backstory: The Bebe was the super popular kid at his California high school who was famous for making up nicknames that stuck like glue. Once, after glancing at the clock while lighting up with friends, he announced: “4:20…time for bong loads.” It was repeated and shared among his friends, and 4:20 quickly became code for getting high. (Only when they went to college did it get adopted as a meeting time—because as meeting times after classes go, it’s really weird. In college, classes let out at different times, often in the 2:00 or 3:00 hour, everybody has different extracurriculars, and how the hell would ALL of them have been over with in time to finish up and meet at exactly “4:20” every day? Fishy. Also, why not 4:00 or 4:30? Because the Bebe had already popularized 4:20 one Saturday afternoon at random.

    Some of his acquaintances, whom he had nicknamed “the Waldos” for their goofiness, then spread the term around the country, one of them as a roadie for the Dead, and took credit for inventing it.

  • roast beef


    • Blake

      You’re a fucking moron. Are you really not aware that every culture/sub-culture has it’s own legends and myths? You can’t possibly be that stupid. Do you have to physically control subconscious reflexes? How do you remember to breathe all day long?

  • Christina Marie

    If you roll the blunt or joint you light it!