To be fair, the note on the plate was clear: “MOM – DO NOT EAT.”
When the mother in question claimed she “spoke to God last night,” however, 24-year-old Somerville resident Amanda started to suspect her admonition had been disregarded.
“When she said that I was immediately like, ‘Um, did you eat some of the cookies on the counter?’ ” Amanda said, recounting the exchange earlier this week at her mother’s house in a Middlesex County suburb.
“We just looked at each other a minute and then my mom goes, ‘You didn’t.’ And I had to say, ‘I did.’ Luckily she wasn’t [angry] — She just said, ‘Oh, that makes sense’ — but that’s definitely the last time I leave edibles out in a common space.”
With attitudes and laws about the plant rapidly changing, cannabis is increasingly a part — and an increasingly open part — of American holidays. Legal marijuana sales typically spike before Christmas, and interviews with a wide array of Massachusetts consumers found that products infused with hemp-derived cannabidiol, or CBD, are high (no pun intended) on many gift lists this Christmas season.
Meanwhile, people said that marijuana’s fading stigma means they’re more likely than ever to be swapping joints, marijuana flower, and edibles as gifts with friends and colleagues, especially those under 40.
The interviews also revealed that many people feel less pressure than ever to hide from their families marijuana-related holiday traditions, such as the annual “walk in the woods” to smoke a joint with the cousins before a family meal, even as the pandemic has forced somewhat unsatisfying adaptations of those cherished rituals.
In the case of Amanda, who asked that her last name be withheld to candidly discuss family matters, the homemade THC-infused cookies were intended as gifts: safe, coronavirus-era replacements for the Christmas Day spliff she has long shared on exactly such a walk with close family friends. Her parents must be aware of that not-so-discreet tradition, Amanda said, but essentially take a “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach, especially since Massachusetts voters legalized cannabis in 2016.
“My mom always plays the host and makes all the food, but my unspoken role as co-host is to get the ‘kids’ — meaning, the adults under 40 — high,” Amanda said. This year, that means the cookies, hand-rolled joints left on friends’ porches, and, for her stepbrother, a quarter-ounce of marijuana flower under the Christmas tree with a note on top instructing him to tell any nosy relatives that the present was actually a gift card, “so our stories are aligned.”
Taba Moses, a Cambridge native and marijuana entrepreneur, said his 85-year-old father wanted a CBD cream for his aching legs this Christmas. That was a first after a lifetime of eschewing drugs.
“It’s really becoming normalized,” Moses said. “I’ve been giving out CBD as gifts to practically everyone. Before, people would hang out and smoke, but you’ve got to be a certain kind of person to be in a session like that. Now, people who would never think of trying it in the past are relating to cannabis in a completely different way. And they’re not just making brownies anymore — they’re really getting into the culture and being creative with it.”
In addition to cannabis making for a unusual gift, proponents of mixing marijuana with Christmas and other holidays say the practice can reduce holiday-related stress, enhance the enjoyment of meals, add a more spiritual dimension to the occasion, and promote family cohesion — or at least make the political conversations at the dinner table marginally more bearable.
Keith Saunders, a sociologist and longtime marijuana advocate from Scituate, said he and a group of cousins and friends have shared a joint before every Thanksgiving since the 1980s. He credits the tradition with helping them stay close over the yearsm despite holding drastically disparate political views, and even to mourn those they love who have passed away.
This year, they instead vaped marijuana together on a Zoom video call, each in his or her own home. Like Amanda and other consumers, Saunders said such calls are fun enough, but hardly the same as the real thing. When the pandemic ends, social toking sessions will be atop their to-do lists.
“You can get high on either side, and that’s great, but you’re not really sharing,” Saunders said of the Zoom call. “I’m not really passing the joint. There’s no ability to reach out and touch your loved one on the shoulder, or give a hug or a high five, or say, ‘Look at this flower, sniff this, taste that’ — all the tactile interpersonal stuff is gone and that’s what we’re missing.
“It’s getting high together, but it’s not getting high together.”