by Robyn Banks

UCAS deadlines have passed, interviews are taking place across the country, college students are going through the clearing process. For many, university isn’t just about learning- it’s about the life experiences, the parties, and the new experiences you’ll have within your own minds. That is to say, drugs, and namely those most common university drugs: alcohol and cannabis.

Chances are that after our 18th birthdays we all got well acquainted with our own alcohol limits, normally the hard way. It’s also legal, which means we can talk about it openly in society, warn people about drinking responsibly and the risks of drink spiking, and phone our parents to pick us up when we’ve had a bit too much. But what about that bright green elephant in the room we consistently ignore, even though he smells pretty cheesy and recent polls suggest that around 60% of university students will at some point smoke weed? For many, calling your mum in the middle of a whitey is a big no. So I’m here, as an expert in the field, to help you look cool and stay safe.

Lesson one.

Be honest. That group of second years you went home with after the party won’t mind that you haven’t smoked before, or perhaps have only smoked very little. If they’re people worth your time, they’ll look out for you and help you pace yourself. Don’t pretend you’re an old hat when you’re not- there’s nothing more annoying than watching someone toking a joint and not even inhaling.


Lesson two.

Cannabis is non-toxic. That means you cannot overdose on it and die. You can, however, smoke enough that you feel very unwell or emotionally distressed. You may experience an inability to keep track of the conversation or even your own thoughts, leading to paranoia. If you followed lesson one, just tell your friends what you’re feeling. They’ll have been through the same thing at some point. You may also experience something that feels like motion sickness, and then vomit. This is known as ‘whiteying’ because the afflicted usually turn very pale due to low blood pressure. Again, most smokers have felt this at some point, and if you followed lesson one, your friends should be keeping an eye on you. Whiteying is particularly common when weed is smoked with alcohol.

Lesson three.

Cannabis is not physically addictive. However, like all things, it can be psychologically addictive. It’s also cumulative, meaning that it builds up and takes around 6 weeks to leave your system. Despite being a non-toxic substance, that doesn’t mean it’s not harmful. Heavy smoking the night before may cause you to oversleep, or wake up with a groggy feeling known as a ‘gange-over’ or ‘stone-over’, which won’t help you concentrate in that 9am class. Frequent smoking may leave you feeling that sobriety is a bit stressful, and you might get cranky from that sudden dopamine drop. Also, bear in mind that each joint usually contains around the same amount of tobacco as two cigarettes, and tobacco is a toxic substance.

Drugs are anarchistic, right? There are no rules, right? Wrong.

Lesson four.

Observe etiquette! Drugs are anarchistic, right? There are no rules, right? Wrong. There’s actually a well-established etiquette to smoking weed with other people, and one which rivals even the most upper class dining etiquettes. In fact, I’ve even heard of poor weed etiquette ending relationships. First, ask your friends what their system is. Joints are usually passed to the left hand side, and most old timers will smoke a percentage of a joint according to how many people are in a room. That is to say, if the joint has to go around 5 people, they will smoke roughly one fifth of the joint.

The first rule is that the roller of the joint gets ‘rollers rights’. This means they light the joint first, and often have a little bit more than everyone else- especially if they used their own weed. Also, it’s common for the very end of the joint to go back to the person who rolled it, so that they can put it out. Among established smoking groups, this system can be difficult to figure out, so watch how much everyone else is smoking and try not to smoke more. Often, a joint will go around a circle more than once, and it’s a good rule of thumb to smoke a bit less the second time than you did the first.

Some circles use a ‘two toke pass’ system, which means you take two drags on the joint before passing it. This is common in larger groups and among people who often smoke with people outside their circle, and less common in friendship groups where there is a high level of trust. Hanging on to the joint for too long and smoking more than your fair share is known as ‘bogarting’ and is considered selfish and rude. It’s also considered rude to ask for the joint to be passed to you when a circle has been established and it’s not your turn, or when the person before you hasn’t finished their turn. Only ever ask for the joint if you’re sure the person before you is bogarting.

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