I signed up for a cannabis tea party in Los Angeles recently after reading about it in Vogue and the New York Times. It was called White Rabbit High Tea. Guests were dressed up like characters plucked from a staged rendition of 'Alice in Wonderland'. And it looked like my kind of party. I had to go.
As luck would have it, the day of the party was one of those rare miserable weather days in LA. The skies had opened up and it was a torrential and relentless water apocalypse. And as any good Angeleno will tell you, we don't do rain. We cancel meetings. We don't go to work. And we definitely do NOT go outside.
This tea party was all the way across town in the Hollywood Hills and it would be a garden party. Someone hated me and this day, I would pay for it.
Under normal rainy circumstances, I'd be feigning extreme sickness just to stay cozy and dry in my house in Venice. But I'd heard rumors of a yearlong waitlist to get a spot at one of these events and not going today meant not going ever. On top of that, having spoken to the host Jessica Cole just a few weeks earlier, I knew she was a sort of modern day Emily Post. I knew she was in the throes of writing a book about etiquette. And I knew a bogus last-minute excuse would never have flown. I had to go.
So, I did. And it was a magical time.
Tucked shoulder-to-shoulder, under a tent and around a long table, about 30 of us sat. The rain poured down just inches from our chairs. Bathroom breaks necessarily meant spending the rest of the party soaking wet. Many of us took off our shoes. It was a bonding experience. We nibbled at scones, drank tea (non-medicated), and passed joints. I met beautiful people, each dressed just for the occasion. I wore a floor-length blue tartan gown, a beret and a white rabbit fur stole (perhaps in poor taste).
And after it all, Jessica and I chatted about smoking etiquette and her soon-to-be released book "Ms. Cole’s Guide to Herb and Herbs".
What inspired you to write a book about smoking etiquette?
When I was younger, I was very inspired by both Martha Stewart and Emily Post and their etiquette books. I felt that we needed a cannabis etiquette book. So we started writing it then, my friend Risa and I. We always used cannabis in our daily activities while we created art and wrote prose and poetry. We started the outline for the etiquette book then and I still have those initial writings. I use them to keep sight of where the love and inspiration began. It’s been 17 years since those first sparks of inspiration, but the book has evolved more into a guide on how to throw your own cannabis tea party. We wanted to take what we have have been doing and share that experience with more people.
Are there some faux pas that you hope this book will address?
“Bogarting” or holding the the joint for too long while it wastefully burns is probably the biggest faux pas. I don’t fully blame folks for doing it since smoking cannabis can be a very social activity and often leads to storytelling. Once the story is going, it’s hard to multitask and remember to puff, puff, pass!
What would you tell a new cannabis consumer?
I am a very inclusive person, so I think as long as there is enough cannabis for everyone, it’s hard to go wrong. Knowing your tolerance is also key. Right now is a time of exploration and it’s often hard to navigate. So if you’re new to any of it, go slow! Experiment and test your limits before putting yourself into a larger social situation.
Do you see smoking etiquette much like our parents or grandparents might have seen basic etiquette?
People have always sought advice on how to live or how to better create the life they want to live. It’s always nice to have a guide, even if you don’t adhere to every bit of their advice. It’s the age of picking and choosing what works for you. Cannabis is new to a lot of people, even if they smoked in their heyday. And with modern cultivation, the potency is a lot stronger, so it’s wise to proceed with caution.
With the legalization of cannabis, do you think that our behavior around the plant and smoking rituals will change?
Yes, it has already. Legalization and the freedom it brings can do a lot of wonderful things. We are seeing the changes in really positive ways in all areas of cannabis, from cultivation and delivery to branding and marketing to personal consumption and smaller cultural movements.
What's the most important thing for people to know when approaching this new cannabis land?
Know yourself. Whatever you’re into in your regular life, you will be into with cannabis. Never before have we had so much information, knowledge, data and choice. We actually have the freedom to explore and find the thing that works best for us. We can find our niche and find a place in the cannabis world that feels right for us. I hope that with White Rabbit High Tea, the book, and our lifestyle brand Mimsy, we can create a space for people who vibe with what we are doing. We just want to help to enhance and enrich their lives.
Are these high teas a part of your overall mission to educate the public on cannabis etiquette?
The conversation thus far has been lead by the medicinal community. I’ve been a medical marijuana card holder since 2004 in Oregon and then in California. It’s a huge burden to bear when you are also dealing with whatever ailment requires you to be on cannabis to begin with. We have come a long way in legalization and fighting for patient rights and I am so very proud of my community. I think now that California has gone recreationally legal, the work is not over. We still need to change the cultural perception of cannabis to allow more people access to it. It won’t matter if the laws open up for cannabis, if the hearts and minds stay closed to it. White Rabbit High Tea is my way of sharing a little bit of my world, sharing the hopes that I have for cannabis with my visual content, and ultimately sharing the many new forms that cannabis consumption has taken.
Would you say the White Rabbit High Tea has been a success then?
I believe so. But often times with social movements, you have to wait for time and space to pass before you can see the full effect of your actions. The types of publications we have been featured in validate what we’re doing. But for me, the real success stories come with the personal stories we hear back from our guests and clients.
Keep up with White Rabbit High Tea on Instagram.