Maybe it’s the regularity of rolling a joint before bed—or before sex. Maybe it’s rubbing a topical into your lower back and belly every month around your period. It could be as casual as passing a bowl around with friends on a Saturday afternoon. Or as intentional as setting aside a few hours to yourself once a week or once a month to smoke/vape/eat/dab your favorite strain and practice yoga, journal, meditate, or otherwise look inside.
There’s something to be said for ritual as something to ground us in our otherwise busy, chaotic, often inconsistent lives. It’s a way to return to ourselves through a medium that is familiar and rooted. Our surroundings, our jobs, our professions, and our lives altogether may change—our rituals hold us in conversation with and accountable to ourselves.
I fled the chaotic freelance hustle for a couple weeks’ peace in India. I was looking mainly to chill out and escape work, but what I wanted to learn was how to chill in a way that was meaningful.
There are rituals we share with other people or those that are more solitary and personal. Cannabis, our favorite most diverse plant experience, fosters opportunities for both.
A few months ago, I fled the chaotic freelance hustle for a couple weeks’ peace in India. I was looking mainly to chill out and escape work, but what I wanted to learn was how to chill in a way that was meaningful. I met a Hindu priest in the Kumaon mountains, not far from Nepal, who taught me about his ritual with “ganja”.
He wakes up every morning around 4 am and heads straight into the hilly wilderness for somewhere between a four and six-hour long meditation in half-lotus pose. And before he meditates, he drinks chai, eats a banana, and smokes charras, or hash, from a chillum. It helps him center, he told me, it helps him go inward and maintain a sphere of transcendent introspection. For the priest, cannabis is a sacrament that helps him “purify” for the sake of his sadhana, or spiritual practice.
So I took a few chillum hits myself, with my newfound friend, and went hiking with him until we plopped down on the ledge of a mountain overlook, gazing out at the village of temples below us, dedicated to the deity Shiva, lord of destruction, yoga, and mind-altering substances. In Hindu mythology, Shiva is said to be fond of ganja. Then he taught me how to meditate, at least according to his own methodology.
For us westerners, relative newcomers to the cannabis plant in modern-day America, our pot rituals are still evolving.
My friend the priest, unlike most of my friends back home, had a theological foundation for his cannabis ritual. It’s something he could extract from thousands of years of ancestry and tradition. But for us westerners, relative newcomers to the cannabis plant in modern-day America, our pot rituals are still evolving.
In legal California, at least, it no longer needs to be this hush hush thing you do surreptitiously behind closed doors or alleyways, or even brazenly at the occasional concert or festival. Perhaps though not integral to our theology, cannabis may be no less sacred to us than to the Hindu priest.
I looked no further than Instagram to solicit my peers with questions about their own rituals, and I received a flood of responses. Yes! People are enthusiastic about it. This is something that is both personal and important to them, to the nature of their very existence.
Lauren Kruz, founder and director of Tree Femme Collective, says her favorite ritual is a “full moon + cannabis release” ritual. The moon, she explains, is the closest astronomical body to earth, representing the feminine, emotional, and creative aspects of our lives. Our bodies reflect the length of a moon cycle, offering an opportunity to “take time to release what no longer serves me each month.”
“When I light up and take my first inhale, I close my eyes and feel Mama Ganja move through my body, my mind, and kiss my spirit.”
Kruz begins her ritual by honoring the plants and herbs she’ll be using and burning palo santo to cleanse herself before entering what she says is a sacred, meditative state. “While I roll my joint into hemp rolling papers, I scan my chakra system from crown to root feeling into subtle sensation,” she says. “When I light up and take my first inhale, I close my eyes and feel Mama Ganja move through my body, my mind, and kiss my spirit. I focus on each area that I am feeling sensation, listening for messages that arise. The things that are ready to move that no longer serve me are consciously released.” These things are grief, shame, trauma, wounds, attachments, lovers, even dreams, she lists.
Once she’s made her way through her body, she invites in “divine love,” and allows the ritual to eventually feel complete on its own. She’ll either rest, or if she needs movement, she’ll put on some music, sometimes even create art, or both at the same time. “Cannabis is a plant teacher,” says Kruz. “She brings us into her higher consciousness allowing us to see and feel a new perspective.”
While Kruz’s ritual corresponds with a time of month, Leanna Friedman, owner of De La Beuh CBD bath bombs, says her ritual can simply be a means of finishing off her day. She’ll set up candles, put on some tunes, roll a joint, and drop a bomb into the bathtub.
“It’s full body relaxation [that] I use to fully clear my mind, like a meditation almost,” says Friedman. “This ritual helps me stay in touch with myself and the energies that hold the universe together, to realign my own energy centers. This is very important to me [as] the perfect way to let go of the everyday businesses stresses, while tuning into a higher power.”
For the priest, cannabis is a sacrament that helps him “purify” for the sake of his sadhana, or spiritual practice.
For many, the cannabis ritual can be as casual, yet grounding, as having a certain way you roll a joint and what you put in it. And even that can incorporate a bit of “meditation,” explains Daniel Saynt, founder and chief conspirator at the New Society for Wellness (NSFW), a Brooklyn-based private club and digital agency connecting like-minded millennials with vice-category brands in sexual wellness, cannabis, and adventure.
“I store my weed in a tool box, dry and with no light to keep the buds fresh. I mostly choose sativa strains and hybrids. I’ve been buying from the same delivery service for the past seven years, so I’m pretty loyal to my source,” he describes. “I don’t like using a grinder. I prefer to break up the weed by hand. By now, this comes second nature and I get a moment for my mind to go numb. My hands take control without thought.” Saynt says he likes Raw papers, usually with a filter, smaller ones if solo, big boys if hanging with friends. “I’m not good at creating cones, so I roll a pretty thick J.”
Saynt says he can go through up to six Js a day, starting the morning with one, using two to get through work, and about two more before bedtime. Rolling for himself is self-care, he says, but rolling for others is like cooking someone a meal, it feels communal and caring.
NSFW media director, Melissa Vitale, owner of an eponymous PR agency, says she prefers flower 90 percent of the time, usually a calming indica, as well as THC and CBD oils for her nightly tea. Then around her period, she uses cannabis lubricant to alleviate cramps.
Cannabis ritual can be ornate or mundane, planned out or second nature, as simple as coming home from the gym, grinding up weed with your hands (who loves when their fingers smell like ganj?) and hitting a bong, like Will Edelstein, the founder of Philadelphia cannabis educational company Jewish Sauce Boss, does every morning.
Of course, the laws and maturity of the industry in your state might impact how your ritual, and how much you have to work with. But wherever you are, cannabis tends to have a somewhat universal effect for those who enjoy it.
“It makes me feel alive, balanced, enlightened, and filled with positive energy,” says Edelstein. “Sacred is an understatement, it saved my life.”