Are you relatively new to this bustling metropolis? Don't be shy about it, everyone was new to New York once upon a time, except, of course, those battle-hardened residents who've lived here their whole lives and Know It All. One of these lifers works among us at Gothamist—publisher Jake Dobkin grew up in Park Slope and still resides there. He is now fielding questions—ask him anything by sending an email here, but be advised that Dobkin is "not sure you guys will be able to handle my realness." We can keep you anonymous if you prefer; just let us know what neighborhood you live in.
This week's question comes from a New Yorker who felt uncomfortable smoking marijuana with other parents while his child was on a playdate.
I took my kid over for a playdate with some stay-at-home parent friends, and while the kids were busy playing legos in the living room, some of the adults suggested we smoke some weed. I didn't want to be rude, so I took a little puff, but it seemed wrong. Was it?
A native New Yorker responds:
Dear Weed Wacker,
I agree with you; getting high around kids is a bonehead move. Supervising a play-date is no joke. Depending on the age of the kids, serious mayhem may take only a few minutes of inattention from the supervising parents. Suddenly they're flipping over Ikea dressers on top of themselves, or stuffing Legos up their nose, or lighting your couch on fire and pushing it out the window. Think of the worst case scenario: a kid gets hurt, ends up in the ER and ACS gets involved. You want to explain that to them? At the very least at least one parent should be stone cold sober and keeping an eye on things, while the rest can (at most) enjoy a modest glass of wine or beer, or one toke on joint.
If you want to get more inebriated than that, you've got to wait until the kids go to sleep, and even then, you can't get so drunk or high that you wouldn't be able to respond quickly to an emergency. That's just one of the many pernicious parts of parenting no one tells you about in advance. Your days of drinking until you pass out on the sofa are done, at least until your kid is old enough to call 9-1-1 on their own. (One editor in the office wants me to point out that "a number of European countries have strong cultural traditions of getting hammered in large groups while the kids frolic about and, thanks to socialized medicine and high wages, they have higher life expectancies/better quality of life indexes than the U.S." Well guess what, buddy: just because you can do it in Denmark doesn't mean you can do it here.)
What's the etiquette for smoking weed on playdates? It seems to me the host should always be the one to offer, and it should be a light suggestion ("want to smoke?") not a imperious command ("let's smoke this chronic I just got delivered, don't be a pussy"). There should be no pressure on the guest to imbibe. If you're offering weed you should also offer other alternatives, and no, I don't mean microdoses of LSD—I mean a glass of wine or beer, or a soda. And of course, as a guest, you should always follow the host's lead, which means never suggesting something like smoking weed unless they bring it up, but also not feeling any obligation to do something you don't want to do.
Playdates can be real cauldrons of anxiety. Often you don't know the other parents that well, and haven't established a routine at their house. You want to be perceived as friendly and normal so your kid will be included in future playdates and birthday parties, but not boring, because then you won't get many dinner invites, which are a key way of blowing off steam when you're parenting. So I get why you were nervous; you want to play it cool, but not too cool, and seem open and fun, without seeming weird or sketchy. I feel sweaty just thinking about all the interpersonal issues... maybe that's one reason why some parents want to smoke.
The New York Post ascribes the increase in playdate smoking to several factors, including a drop in pot busts from 50,000 in 2011 to 16,000 in 2015, as well as the passage of recreational pot laws in 8 states, and a very narrow medical marijuana law in New York. I could see how each of those factors could contribute to a normalization of people's feelings about the drug, but I think they're missing two important factors that actually affect use.
First, the explosion of pot delivery services. Perhaps encouraged by the drop in street arrests, it seems like everyone has a guy now who can deliver a variety of weed products in under an hour. Second, technology: every year brings a new generation of easy-to-use vaporizers—no more rolling joints or picking out seeds or whatever it was that people had to do before USB-powered weed sticks. So I think it's really the ease of delivery and use, more than the social factors, that are the driver of the behavior here.
An occasional toke, like an occasional drink, will make no difference in your children's upbringing. But if you're the type of parent who finds themselves smoking every night, you might want to ask yourself if you're self medicating some problem—the stress of parenting, work, or your personal life—and face it, through therapy or self-help or a 12-step group. Being able to function without the crutch of a drug, even one as weak as pot, will make you a more effective parent and a happier person.
N.B.: Seems like the jury is still out on the effect of second-hand pot smoke on developing brains, so if you do smoke, smoke far from the kids. You also don't want to get them confused about the very different hazards of cigarette and marijuana smoking; it's better if they never see you smoking anything at all.
Ask a Native New Yorker anything via email. Anonymity is assured.