An experienced stoner always knows to pass to the left — but why? This superstition and others have pervaded stoner circles for decades, but few who indulge in cannabis have a good reason for why these strange habits have spread, let alone why they have endured until today. If you want to wow your weed friends during your next 420 session, you should learn the following histories of popular stoner superstitions.
Passing to the Left
Passing a shared substance to the left in a group of people is much, much older than cannabis culture. The tradition started in the Royal Navy, when sailors would share a bottle of port and pass “port to port,” or the left, until the bottle made it all the way around the circle. Historians believe this tradition survived and spread because it ensures that everyone gets an equal opportunity to partake of the substance offered — no one gets seconds before everyone gets firsts. Because cannabis culture has always emphasized the importance of sharing, it makes sense that stoners borrowed this tradition for themselves.
Everyone knows that 420 is the weed number — but why? Rumors abound. Many stoners believe that 420 is the police code for cannabis possession, or that April 20 is Bob Marley’s birthday, but neither of these guesses are true (the Rasta legend was born on February 6). Instead, the story behind 420 is much more mundane than most expect.
A group of high school kids in Marin County, California would regularly meet up after school to smoke weed. Meeting at 4:20 PM allowed them enough time to drop off their things at home and grab their stash before making their way to their designated smoke spot. To communicate their interest in lighting up, they would tell each other “420” sometime during the school day. Fans of the Grateful Dead, the kids shared their tradition with other Deadheads on tour, and the practice became a fundamental element of American stoner culture.
No White Lighters
White lighters seem to carry a bone-chilling curse. According to legend, famous rockers, stoners and 27-club members Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin and Kurt Cobain died with white lighters nearby, which had led legions of 420 aficionados to swear off this color of Bic.
However, according to Snopes, the legend simply can’t be true. Bic states that it didn’t start producing white disposable lighters until several years after Hendrix, Morrison and Joplin passed. Since white lighters weren’t widely available from other companies at the time, it seems unlikely that white lighters can be blamed for claiming the lives of these victims of rock and roll.
Puff, Puff, Pass
If there were a 420 version of Emily Post, her golden rule would be “Puff, Puff, Pass.” This basic cannabis etiquette says that a stoner should only take up to two puffs from a smokable before offering it to the rest of the group. Many believe that the first puff is polite, and the second shows that you are truly enjoying the available strain. Yet, a third puff would be greedy and disrespectful to others who might want to sample the good kush.
Some stoners believe that those who do not honor Puff, Puff, Pass are susceptible to bad luck, but this is likely some secret hope for karmic retribution. In reality, you probably won’t experience cosmic punishment for taking a third puff — but that doesn’t mean you should make a habit of it.
Loaders Don’t Hit
Another superstition that is just good etiquette, this rule states that if you load the bowl, you don’t get to take the first hit. Even if you spent extra on some rare strain from a top Denver dispensary, you as the host should provide for your guests by offering the bowl to others before you get your own go. Stoners rarely want to spend time with someone who isn’t going to be gracious and generous with their ganja, so you might as well avoid inspiring ire and pass your precious pot before you partake.
You shouldn’t believe everything you hear, especially in cannabis culture. Just because most stoners believe something doesn’t necessarily make it true. Then again, there are plenty of stoner habits that are just plain nice, so if a superstition makes you feel included in the group, you might as well keep it going.