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The Etiquette and Legalities of Wedding Weed

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LUKE EASTMAN
  • Luke Eastman

Since Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize recreational marijuana, in 2012, it seems there are few aspects of American life that cannot, somehow, be infused with it. Americans are wrapping themselves in CBD spa treatments, dosing their anxious pets, attending cannabis art classes, buying pot-related cookbooks, scrolling the pages of cannabis Instagram influencers and looking for work in one of the fastest-growing industries in the country.

On Etsy, we can buy anything from marijuana-leaf jewelry to custom stash tins to a hat emblazoned with "Make America Baked Again."

Given that 66 percent of U.S. adults support marijuana legalization, according to a 2019 Gallup poll, indulging in cannabis may become as mainstream as drinking alcohol. It's no surprise, then, that cannabis is popping up in even the most tradition-steeped corners, including the wedding industry.

"It makes sense, because we celebrate with things that we like," said Lizzie Post, copresident of the Emily Post Institute, the oft-cited etiquette arbiter founded by Lizzie's great-great-grandmother. "A lot of people who like cannabis want to celebrate on that day with the thing they like."

In 2019, Post authored Higher Etiquette: A Guide to the World of Cannabis, From Dispensaries to Dinner Parties, the institute's first foray into the world of marijuana manners.

"This is something that's been around for a while," Post said of weed at weddings. But in Vermont, she has mostly experienced it in an informal manner — "hush-hush, over back behind the barn," she said. "I'm excited to see people embrace the idea of putting a little more structure around it."

It also makes sense economically. The global wedding industry is valued at $72 billion and, according to wedding planning company the Knot, couples in the U.S. already spend an average of $2,500 on booze for the event. More and more marrieds-to-be are choosing marijuana as a supplement to — or a replacement for — alcohol. There's even a traveling Cannabis Wedding Expo, and the home page of the website Love and Marij, a directory of cannabis-friendly wedding vendors, declares, "Cannabis is the new champagne."

Vermont's laws, however, are a bit behind the cannabis curve. Though the state legalized marijuana for medical purposes in 2004 and for recreation in 2018, it's still illegal to buy and sell without a doctor's approval. While people can legally possess up to an ounce of marijuana, grow plants in small numbers and give it away to one another, there's no legal way to buy it for recreational purposes. Though sales are legal in nearby Massachusetts, it's illegal to bring marijuana across state lines because it remains illegal federally.

Still, Vermonters are getting high, and given that the state legislature may legalize marijuana sales this session, some in the industry anticipate growth in pot-related event planning.

Post said including cannabis in wedding planning could be as simple as a bride sharing a joint with her wedding party before the ceremony. Or the couple could incorporate it in food, offer it as a parting gift to guests or feature it in floral arrangements.

"There's so many places to go. When you think, I want cannabis at my wedding, what are you imagining?" Post said. "You can do anything, from just simply having cannabis as décor, all the way up to having a fully infused wedding with a bud bar, with a toasting toke, with a ceremonial bowl-smoking at the altar."

Post's simplest advice is to go with what you personally enjoy. "For me, I roll joints. There will be joints if I ever get married," she said. "But I might not go so far as to have a full bud bar and dab rig set up."

Of course, couples may have relatives who aren't fully on board with marijuana. Post said it's up to each couple to anticipate how their loved ones will react and decide whether to broach the topic. For some couples, a wedding represents their values and desires, and they won't mind if family members who disagree choose not to participate. For others, making sure the event accommodates all invitees is a priority.

If the couple chooses to incorporate cannabis, Post noted, they should provide equal options for guests who choose not to partake. Safety comes first, and any cannabis products should be labeled clearly and kept away from underage wedding attendees. Hosts should make sure guests have access to plenty of water, a ventilated space for smoking, and a safe way to get home or to a hotel at the end of the night.

While Vermont doesn't have a significant cannabis events industry yet, in states where marijuana is fully legalized, people are building businesses around marijuana experiences. John Maden founded his Boston-based business, Buddha Som, last year. He bills himself as a "cannabis sommelier," offering his services as an educator and guide to the world of marijuana. Maden's services are available to Vermonters, but he hasn't yet done any business in the Green Mountain State.

People usually hire Maden for in-home events, where he can offer samples of different strains of marijuana to pair with food, much like a wine sommelier, and talk about the history and science of cannabis. At larger events, he operates the bud bar, answers guests' questions and generally serves as "the responsible steward of everyone's experience."

"I think a lot of people don't intentionally include cannabis in their weddings, [yet] it's there," Maden said. "It makes an appearance behind the stage or the barn. Usually it's not a big deal, but if there's alcohol being served, it can definitely lead to challenging situations ... I think having it out in the open gives a bridal party a lot more control."

Knowing when to cut someone off and how to keep guests safe are among the most valuable services Maden offers, he said. And while people might think edibles are the easiest and most user-friendly way to serve cannabis, he often steers customers away from them. Even when he's confident about the amount of concentrated THC in an edible candy or snack, there's still a lot of variability in how people will metabolize it, he noted. He believes joints or vape devices make the experience easier to control.

Maden believes his services would be legal in Vermont through what some refer to as the "gifting loophole," under which marijuana can ostensibly be given away when customers are paying for another service. (Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan issued an advisory in 2018 warning that, despite some businesses' interpretations of this loophole, "Any transfer of marijuana for money, barter or other legal consideration remains illegal under Vermont law.")

The attorneys at Vermont Cannabis Solutions, a cannabis law and consulting firm founded in 2018, said there's a lot of room for interpretation in Vermont's current law. One of the most important legal considerations, though, is the venue. Any marijuana consumption has to occur on private property, the property owner has to approve, and there can't be other business being conducted on the property at the same time.

"You couldn't have a cannabis wedding if there were other people coming and going," attorney Andrew Subin said. And legally, "right now, the best bet would be for the wedding party to bring their own cannabis."

Regarding giving it to guests, Subin said a party favor is pretty clearly a gift. Giving it to someone under 21, though, could get you in big trouble, but that's avoidable in the same way underage drinking at events is avoidable.

"It needs to be treated the same way alcohol is at weddings," Subin said. "The fact that children are present at this event should not prevent the wedding from having cannabis there."

Tim Fair, the firm's other attorney, said he sees cannabis as a potential boon for Vermont tourism.

"We live in a destination location for weddings," he said. "This is an international destination ... and more and more, those people want to experience something a little different. We have this incredible opportunity right now to become, I'd say, the mecca of cannabis weddings."

Post said people shouldn't be afraid to ask wedding venues whether cannabis is allowed on the premises.

"It's the same way you ask them what their policy is with liquor," she said. "You are asking so you can be respectful and you can make the best decision."

Open conversation is key to normalizing cannabis consumption, Post emphasized. A wedding would give more people the opportunity to see it, hear it described and explain it to their kids, even if they didn't want to try it themselves.

"It helps people understand what's OK," Post said. "It does give people a designated space. I actually think it helps facilitate more conversations."

The original print version of this article was headlined "Budding Romance | The etiquette and legalities of wedding weed"

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