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Higher Etiquette: Respect, Exploration, and Celebration With Lizzie Post

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Kathryn Blume 21 Jun 2019

In this episode of Unhidden, Kathryn talks with Lizzie Post, co-president of the Emily Post Institute, about her new book Higher Etiquette: A Guide To The World Of Cannabis, From Dispensaries To Dinner Parties, and what the intersections are between cannabis culture, and maintaining good manners (hint – it’s a lot about consideration, honesty, and respect).

Kathryn Blume: You have arrived at Unhidden. Produced by Heady Vermont, we’re about bringing cannabis – in all of its forms – out of the dark ages of prohibition and into the light of a world which can definitely use some help from this awesome plant. I’m your host Kathryn Blume.

At first this episode’s guest Lizzie Post might seem to be an unlikely friend of cannabis. Lizzie, along with her cousin Daniel Senning Post, is the co-president of the Emily Post Institute. Now if that name rings your manner is an etiquette bell you’d be right. Starting in 1922 when Emily Post published her classic book, “Etiquette,” the family has been talking about standards of good behavior for almost 100 years.

And while cannabis and manners might not seem to fit hand-in-glove (or bud-in-bowl, as it were) the Posts are all about maintaining – as they say on their website – a “sensitive awareness of the feelings of others.” Of course, what else does cannabis do but heighten our awareness of just about everything – particularly our feelings?

One the first principles of Mama Ganja is: You can run but you can’t hide. If there’s stuff you’re avoiding in your life sooner or later she’s gonna make you confront it. Not to mention the fact that with the shifting national and international landscape of legalization, cannabis culture, values and norms are going to vary greatly from place to place. Fortunately, Lizzie Post has just published a book called “Higher Etiquette,” designed specifically to help the native or novice cannabis consumer navigate this ever-evolving terrain. Plus, Lizzie is smart, funny and just a total hoot to hang out with. So, kick back, relax and enjoy our conversation with Lizzie Post.

So, what is Higher Etiquette?

Lizzie Post: So, Higher Etiquette is really like a social cannabis guide and it’s great for those who have been consuming for a long time and who know a lot of the cultural standards and norms that come with smoking cannabis or enjoying cannabis.

But it’s also a great book for those who are kind of curious or new to cannabis and might not know sort of the ins and outs of sessions and might even not know the ins and outs of things like strains and different equipment and different ways to consume cannabis or the very many different meanings of the word high.

Kathryn Blume: As you were doing the research I imagine you interviewed a lot of people. Was there something that surprised you or that you found that you learned that you didn’t expect to get from the research?

Lizzie Post: I think that one of the bigger surprises for me was in the words for cannabis and how very charged they are. We see in the media a ton of headlines with the word marijuana, we see a lot of legislation and a lot of scientific documents or studies with the word marijuana titled in it and yet that word is one that’s fairly controversial. I found that a lot of people don’t appreciate it, don’t like the way that it was negatively associated with minorities and Hispanic culture and want to see it eradicated.

And then there’s an entire other faction of people who really love the word, want to see it embraced, want to see it honoring the cultures that it comes from. And so, it was really interesting to see just how charged this very very common word is. I had some people who say if that word was on the cover of your book I wouldn’t buy it and I had other people say that using the word cannabis all the time is whitewashing cannabis.

And so that was one of the more surprising things and I had to find some way to talk about that and so we have a little section on cannabis lingo and it talks about the different words and what they mean. Some people don’t like the word weed because it associates it negatively with you know plants you don’t want growing in places and other people love the word weed. So, it was kind of finding that balance was one of the more interesting things that I came across.

Kathryn Blume: So, as you were thinking your way through that how did you negotiate it in the book other than saying, “here’s what it is?” Did you have your own personal cannabis style guide?

I wanted this to be a smart book, I wanted this to be not just frivolous and silliness.

Lizzie Post: I did. I decided that I was not going to use it beyond, use the word marijuana beyond just representing it as a word that gets used and hear the different feelings about the word. But I did use the words weed and pot, and there are a couple of places where I think stoner even comes in. That felt a little bit more comfortable, and when I was exploring you know, I was also reading a ton of articles and looking at how other people seemed to handle it and that seemed to be at the time that the research was going on where a lot of the conversation and the comfort levels seem to rest.

Kathryn Blume: Things are changing so much culturally and legally right now. That must have an effect on the book itself.

Lizzie Post: It does and you know as soon as you print a book, it’s a moment in time. But you know I’m hoping that we’ll get second and third editions to be able to catch up as the culture changes. It is certainly reflective of the time that it’s been written in.

Kathryn Blume: So, what were the origins of the book?

Lizzie Post: It was one of those ideas you know we’ve always had. I mean, being someone that  – UVM you know people knew what my family business was and they would often tease me, oh you should write the book on weed etiquette you know and that kind of thing.

And who hasn’t sat around and thought, there’s all these little things people know about, you know don’t burn your whole bowl like you know don’t Bogart the joint, we should write a book about it. It’s definitely not, this is not a new idea by any concept. It came about because I was working on a project with another fellow author and we were just getting into talks about that project.

We’re talking about something that a lot of people have done for a long time and you want to be able to respect and explore and celebrate that culture, not rewrite it.

So, I’d met her team and we had had some great conversations. And then her agent reached out to the two of us, and it was kind of by just sheer luck that she decided to include me on this email that said, “I’ve got a publisher who’s looking to write a book on weed etiquette, do you know any particularly conscientious pot smokers? I don’t think this is right for either of your brands.” And I was like, you know, I have my own agent, so to get a letter like this from a different agent was really like, that’s interesting and I just kind of raised my hand in my office all alone.

I could actually write that book, we would write that book and then she said, “Well would it be the Emily Post brand that’s attached to it?” And I said, “Yes, of course!” And she said, “Okay,” and then the publisher decided to hold the project till I could get a proposal to them.

And what was really nice is that they were expecting a very gifted, kind of, more kitschy book on it. And the response I got back was this is really smart, this is diving into the topic. It was one of the things that I was the most proud of, because I wanted this to be a smart book, I wanted this to be not just frivolous and silliness. There are some moments where we get into it because it’s fun, it’s fun to play up the fancy side of it, it’s fun to play up the formality when it necessitates. But for the most part, we’re talking about something that a lot of people have done for a long time and you want to be able to respect and explore and celebrate that culture, not rewrite it.

It was really about diving in and thinking about our angle and running scenarios through our sort of tried and true principles of consideration, respect and honesty and thinking about who’s involved and how they’re affected and how can we respect everyone who’s being affected by a situation. That’s what etiquette is about. It’s very not so pinkies out and it’s much more like let’s be real and good to the people around us.

Kathryn Blume: So, how much of a stretch was it to let cannabis fall under the Emily Post brand? Because there’s the reality of who you are, who you’ve become is a business and then there’s what most people remember and recognize.

Lizzie Post: Yeah, this is what…. it was not a stretch within the family, much bigger stretch for people outside the family to absorb. I have been granted permission to say that the past three generations of Post family members have had pro-cannabis members. I can’t divulge more than that, it’s their responsibility and many of them are no longer here with us, so I can’t do that. But I can say that I know for a fact that the past three generations have been pro-cannabis. And so, it was really just a matter of kind of figuring out how to do it the way that Emily Post would do it. You know this is – like I said we don’t own the subject matter.

And so it was really about diving in and thinking about our angle and running scenarios through our sort of tried and true principles of consideration, respect and honesty and thinking about who’s involved and how they’re affected and how can we respect everyone who’s being affected by a situation. That’s what etiquette is about. It’s very not so pinkies out and it’s much more like let’s be real and good to the people around us.

You’ve got to meet people where they’re at. And that really stuck tried and true throughout the entire thing.

A reporter that I work with who is out of this area said that you know she got shushed when she started talking about cannabis around someone’s family. And she was like wait a second why am I being shushed? This is legal here. We have our own system for it here. Like I’m not doing it, I’m not holding it in front of your children, why are you shushing me on the conversation? And it was just the other gentlemen’s comfort level because he is not in that place where it’s normal and comfortable yet to talk about it.

Well, I remember showing the book to a family that I babysit for and I was wondering if it was okay to show the book in front of the kids or not and I let the mom be the one directing that for me. But it went through my mind, it was a thought I had. It wasn’t yet at the place where you know when I was out in Colorado I was staying with the dispensary owner that I was working with and his family and he vapes in front of the kids all the time. They don’t combust anything in front of the kids so there’s no burning of anything in front of them, they don’t do bowls or bongs or joints in front of them but they take that stuff outside. And they would see me smoking a joint outside, and none of the kids have any inclination to be engaging with cannabis.

They’re all of the age where they’re gonna start getting curious, and it’s interesting to see them growing up in a family whose business is a cannabis business. One of them really wants to get into gardening and growing any kind of flower or plant but the other ones just aren’t interested in it as a topic which I thought was kind of interesting.

The descriptions I was getting from the budtenders were things like, “Well, I can study on this but then go to sleep. It doesn’t keep me up for 8 hours but I do then really want to go to sleep after 4:00.”

The thing that I learned from Bridget Conroy of Champlain Valley Dispensaries way in the early part of my research was you’ve got to meet people where they’re at. And that really stuck tried and true throughout the entire thing. It’s stuck true to me reacting to the people I was meeting, when I felt grateful when people would meet me where I was at, where I didn’t feel like someone was being condescending or making me feel like I was the newbie who didn’t know anything.

I mean, you know, when you’ve consumed for a long time but you jump into the world of legalized cannabis, you do feel like a newbie, you do feel like a fish out of water. I had no idea what caryophyllene was the first time someone said it to me. And cannabinoids or cannabinoids, or you know, like, terpenes, what? Wait. It was like really, really a big learning curve and Bridget’s advice of just meet people where they’re at and use reflective language when you’re talking with someone; prepare people for the experience they’re going to have, be inclusive with others, make offers but respect when someone declines.

Kathryn Blume: So, you’ve been out West, you’ve been to states where legalization has been in place for a while and we are slowly progressing here in Vermont. What do you see as a difference in the cultures? How you see things unfolding in Vermont and maybe in New England in general?

What I am excited for, and what I do think really does emerge, is that the same way that our food styles or our housing styles tend to be different around this country based on where we live, I really think that that’s going to happen with cannabis. I can’t wait to see how the South does pot.

Lizzie Post: So, I visited Colorado and Oregon and I was in California before they legalized recreational for adult use. So, that’s my perspective in terms of other states and one of the people I was staying with was from Washington state. So, I got a really good perspective of that just through him but I didn’t actually get to go visit.

But I found that in Colorado a lot of the language in the dispensary uses Indica/Sativa based language for the type of high that you’re going to experience. I found that there was a lot of product options everywhere whereas when I went to Portland, Oregon I found that things were much more cannabinoid terpenes specific language based or effect-based language. Although Colorado still had a lot of effect-based language too, you know, what kind of high are you looking for?

But when I was in Oregon it felt much more like a tailor-made specific high. The descriptions I was getting from the budtenders were things like, “Well, I can study on this but then go to sleep. It doesn’t keep me up for 8 hours but I do then really want to go to sleep after 4:00.” I found that you could kind of pinpoint your high a bit more there and they do do terpene testing in Oregon which they don’t do in Colorado.

Emily Post always said that etiquette is whenever two people come together and their behavior affects one another, you have etiquette. So, that’s every interaction. Cannabis is a very social beast, and it is something that ever since people started sharing it with one another whether it was for medicinal use or whether it was just “Hey this’ll be fun,” those are moments of interaction.

What I am excited for, and what I do think really does emerge, is that the same way that our food styles or our housing styles tend to be different around this country based on where we live, I really think that that’s going to happen with cannabis. I can’t wait to see how the South does pot.

Kathryn Blume:  So, the larger goals of the book, I would imagine have to do in large part with normalizing cannabis for the culture. Do you now see yourself as a cannabis thought leader or market…? You know are you a woman of cannabis officially now?

Lizzie Post:  That’s a very interesting identity question. I don’t know how I see myself. I always see myself as a…. cause I don’t even own my business; the family owns the business but you know a head of a business who’s really just trying to keep that business going and spread the word because I see what a difference it makes.

We have a podcast “Awesome Etiquette,” and the response we get from our audience is one that hearing about consideration, respect and honesty on a regular basis makes them feel so good and so confident and like they can tackle the really annoying everyday problems that come into their lives with grace and understanding and that’s a good thing to be putting out in the world.

So, I think I see myself still very much so as a Vermonter and as an Emily Post Etiquette person and cannabis has just always been a part of that. So, it’s more a part of who I am than it is a part of like what my title needs to be out in the broader world.

My grandmother – not on the Post side of the family – made each of her seven kids sit to her right for one year at the age of seven and taught them table manners for that year.

Kathryn Blume: What do you think is the relationship between cannabis and etiquette? How do they work together perhaps? What’s the entourage effect there?

Lizzie Post: Here we go. So, etiquette is really – at least Emily Post always said that etiquette is whenever two people come together and their behavior affects one another, you have etiquette. So, that’s every interaction. Cannabis is a very social beast, and it is something that ever since people started sharing it with one another whether it was for medicinal use or whether it was just, “Hey this’ll be fun,” those are moments of interaction.

So, there’s always been etiquette that’s being built as those moments happen more frequently, as they happen among different groups with different styles of socializing and civility throughout history. If I could be a fly on the wall, you know, some of the joints that have been passed throughout the years…

But seriously, you got to wonder, and cannabis etiquette really has been around ever since this became something people were sharing and our job is just to talk about it and to talk about where we see it. I mean the number of people who grabbed my shoulder and immediately said when they heard about this project, “Oh do you know about cornering a bowl or it’s sometimes called lawn mowing when you do it wrong?”

You know, no matter where you’re from, no matter what your ideals and thoughts are in life you can generally get behind the idea of you want to try to treat other people well. That’s been really nice because it makes etiquette accessible for people.

And, you know, you got to be polite because each one of them, they’re just having the idea for the first moment you know like, no, I would have gone through all that research without hearing that once, no. But it’s true in bogarting, you know, that’s something that even people who don’t know anything about cannabis will say, “Oh don’t bogart that joint.” And it’s known, and so it’s already out there and they were already connected from the beginning.

Kathryn Blume: This is my own just personal curiosity. So, you come from this multigenerational, very well-known family business. Were you groomed from a young age to come in and take over, or is this something that you ended up in by happenstance or…?

Lizzie Post: I think even if they tried it wouldn’t have worked. I was, you know, I grew up out in the country in Vermont and my mum did a really great job of doing things with us, making moments special and introducing us to formality without making us little kids forced into a formal box. And so, she would have us eat by candlelight at dinner not because it was romantic or formal but because we couldn’t complain about what we had on the plate because we couldn’t see it as much. So, like candles are familiar but not exactly for the reason you think.

And then, like, she, you know, always had all these great stories from summer camp she’d went to and one of them was about putting your napkin in your lap you know when you shape a napkin like a triangle looks like a sail and so at summer camp they would call it sinking your sail. And so, she would teach us little things like that that would make it stick.

Or, she would make it a game. Like she would say, “Well. when I was little and Granny Pat was teaching us table manners…” My grandmother – not on the Post side of the family – made each of her seven kids sit to her right for one year at the age of seven and taught them table manners for that year, and she focused on them. And little Sarah, the youngest, was left in the kitchen the last year alone eating at the not big fancy dinner.

So, that’s like the world my mother grew up in, not the Post family, but my mother. So, she would teach us things through telling us stories of that world and saying well we would have to say, may I rise from the table? And she would make it funny but you got the idea and so then you knew you know at someone else’s table to be able to say you know may I be excused? Or when you’re visiting grandma say may I be excused? And it was a nice gentle way of doing it. My Post side of the family I really had no idea of what they were known for until I was older in life, till I was a teenager.

Kathryn Blume: So, how did you decide that you wanted to be a part of the business?

Lizzie Post: Another thing that just fell in my lap. The universe tends to guide me. I was a junior in college and my dad called me and he and his two of his sisters and a sister in law were running the business at the time; He called me into his office and I thought I was in trouble for something. He said, “We’ve got all these books that go from birth all the way up to graduating high school and then in college and then getting married.”

And he said, “Really, there’s this whole decade in between that a lot of people live but we don’t have a book about it.” And it was like, so what is this? We now call it adulting and my friend Kelly Williams Brown wrote that book and coined that phrase, it certainly cracks me up but I did write a book for that kind of time in life. It was called “Life Thing.” That was really how it all started. It was my family said, “You’re the one who is this age living it, you’ll know it better than anyone else; what did the newly independent people in life go through and what do they face?”

And so that was my first jump into it and then I spent a year selling suits at Michael Kehoe’s downtown while the book was getting published and then I joined the company kind of as a gopher. I was you know booking travel for other people, other authors, seminars and you know answering e-mail, letters about etiquette questions and doing a lot of the grunt work; learning video work just so that we could have some stuff to put up on YouTube. It was really kind of a learned from the bottom up experience over the past 12 years.

Kathryn Blume: So, what’s the appeal been for you? Where does it resonate that keeps you engaged?

Lizzie Post: It’s such a great question. It comes from two things: 1) It does come from hearing feedback from people that this has made a difference in their life. We hear from people that the fact that we strip kind of etiquette down to consideration, respect and honesty, it really equalizes it. You know, no matter where you’re from, no matter what your ideals and thoughts are in life you can generally get behind the idea of you want to try to treat other people well. That’s been really nice because it makes etiquette accessible for people. And when you know what to expect in a certain situation you’re gonna have more confidence and I really like bringing confidence to people in life. That’s a nice thing to get to do.

But I listened to a Ted Talk called “Five Minutes To Your Life’s Purpose,” and I highly recommend it and it was very short – it’s like a ten-minute talk. And if you answer the questions, you get a sentence out of it that you can kind of read. And I realized at 30 years old when I did it that my job really allowed me to live my life’s purpose, or what I think my life’s purpose is. It’s really about getting to help people and help them build their confidence, and I do think that’s a huge part of it.

So, getting to build my own confidence with cannabis has been huge just to be able to rather than say oh yeah, I still smoke pot, like yeah, I love cannabis, I’m all for it and hear the difference in my own life of what that conversation sounds like is pretty great but yeah, it’s very fulfilling work.

Kathryn Blume: So, is there anything I haven’t asked you that you want to say about either etiquette or cannabis?

Lizzie Post: Just that this is an ever-evolving conversation. This is something that is going to grow no matter what. This book is not a prescription, it’s an exploration and a celebration and I really hope people have fun with it.

Kathryn Blume: So, name the title again.

Lizzie Post: So, it’s called “Higher Etiquette.” The subtitle is “A Guide To The World of Cannabis From Dispensaries To Dinner Parties.”

Kathryn Blume: And where can people get it?

Lizzie Post: Online at every online retailer, here in Burlington I believe Ceres is going to carry it and I’m hoping that we can get some other local stores go in too. 

Kathryn Blume: Lizzie, thank you so much for coming, it’s just been a delight and I really appreciate it.

And that my friends is it for this episode of Unhidden. I’m your host Kathryn Blume. Thanks to the whole team at Heady Vermont, Monica Donovan, our killer intern Caitlin Lucadamo, and Luna the Wonder Dog. Thanks also to Lizzie Post and to West End Blend for the excellent music. You can find Heady Vermont on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, iTunes and at headyvermont.com. Look for the Unhidden podcast at SoundCloud, iTunes and wherever fine podcasts are sold. We’ll see you next time.

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