A Hazy Issue for Couples: One Smokes (Pot), the Other Doesn’t

Like many spouses, Kindred Sparks has a list of marital grievances. But hers are not like everyone else’s.

There was the time when her husband, Peter Pietrangeli, left an envelope with thousands of dollars in cash on the roof of his car and drove off. Or the time he left their son’s car seat on the side of the road.

“Being married to a stoner can really be frustrating,” Ms. Sparks said. “It really tests your patience when you’re clearheaded and when your partner is not.”

Ms. Sparks is one half of a new kind of American couple made up of one person who partakes in cannabis use and one who does not.

With recreational marijuana now legal in more than 20 states, a joint or cannabis gummy has become as routine as a glass of chardonnay in some quarters. But as the drug enters the mainstream of American social life, the rules surrounding its usage can be, well, hazy. And many couples are trying to figure out how to fit it into their lives with the least disruption.

Ms. Sparks, 40, and Mr. Pietrangeli, 41, have had a close-up view of changing societal attitudes toward marijuana as the owners of LA Confidential Caregivers, a cannabis dispensary in California, which they operated from 2009 to 2019. They are still in the same business, working for Woodstock Highbury, a cannabis company in New York.

Ms. Sparks said she came to marijuana at a young age. She recalled smoking in the parking lot outside the high school she attended and said she continued while growing her own marijuana plants when she was in her 20s. Mr. Pietrangeli was already in the cannabis business when she started dating him in the early 2000s.

After the birth of the first of their two sons, Ms. Sparks found that even the smallest dose of marijuana brought on panic attacks. She stepped away from pot even as her husband’s influence in the cannabis community grew.

“I can see where it’s really beneficial,” Ms. Sparks said. “I can also see where it’s really detrimental. It’s a slippery slope.”

Ms. Sparks has ridden down that slope through 14 years of marriage with Mr. Pietrangeli. At times, she said, she couldn’t trust him with tasks like grocery shopping, especially at Costco.

“If I’m stoned and hungry,” Mr. Pietrangeli said, “I will come back with so much random stuff. And she’s just like, ‘What are you doing?’”

“When you’re in that mind-set,” he continued, “it’s hard to see what you look like. It’s hard to take note of how your partner feels. There was an imbalance there, for sure.”

Mr. Pietrangeli said he stopped using cannabis in the summer of 2023 before returning to it in a more restrained manner. That translates to one hit or gummy after Ms. Sparks has gone to bed. It’s a compromise that has been working for both husband and wife, they said.

Tules Yegin, a Brooklyn resident who works for an apparel company, said she has seen how cannabis can affect relationships — in good ways and bad — over the course of her two marriages.

She said her first marriage ended, in part, because her ex-husband smoked too much marijuana, in her view. That experience caused her to recoil at the very thought of it. But she ended up changing her mind during the coronavirus pandemic. The cannabis she tried in 2020, she said, came as a revelation to her. It didn’t make her tired, and it seemed to help allay the symptoms of her attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, she said.

Her current husband does not use cannabis, she said, but he doesn’t object when she lights up. “He’s never annoyed by it,” Ms. Yegin, 37, said. “In fact, it’s the other way around. He almost looks at me in a way that says, Maybe you need to smoke a little and chill.”

She continued: “He needs to slow my pace down to bring me to his level. And that’s where weed comes in.”

Amber Lee, the chief executive of the matchmaking firm Select Date Society, said the issue of recreational cannabis use had “come up more in the last couple of years” among her clients.

“If you’re a smoker or you enjoy edibles or whatever, you have to communicate that openly and effectively with your partner,” Ms. Lee said. “And then, as a partnership going forward, you have to decide how to compromise if the other person doesn’t enjoy the activity and you do.”

Cannabis has been something of a sticking point for Laura and Todd Rosales, a married couple in Delray Beach, Fla. Ms. Rosales, 35, is a psychologist who has worked as an addiction counselor; Mr. Rosales, 37, works for Green Check, a financial firm that serves as an intermediary between banks and the cannabis industry.

Early in their relationship, they bonded over their shared love of hiking and interest in college football. But they quickly realized their differences. Ms. Rosales was dedicated to working out, which didn’t appeal to him. He smoked pot; she did not.

Mr. Rosales, for his part, believes that marijuana helped make them close. He recalled times early in the relationship when he would light up on the balcony of her apartment and they would talk for hours. Ms. Rosales maintains that she was “fine” with those getting-to-know-you conversations, though she abstained.

Shortly before their honeymoon, Mr. Rosales tried to get her to join him, to no avail.

“What if I don’t like it?” Ms. Rosales said, describing what she was thinking at the time. “Then I’m going be miserable for who knows how long. I don’t want that.”

She’d had a bad experience after ingesting a pot brownie when she was in college, she said, and she wasn’t eager to go through that again.

Ms. Rosales said she eventually developed a “just go-with-the-flow” attitude toward her husband’s marijuana use. But she said she found it “annoying” when she was with him at weddings and other social gatherings and he would disappear for 20 minutes at a time, leaving her with no one to talk to.

Now seven years into their marriage, they have two young daughters. Mr. Rosales smokes one or two joints daily, he said, and she has continued to abstain. She says his habit is fine with her, as long as it — and the smell that comes with it — stays outside the house.

“I wouldn’t say we get into these crazy fights about it,” Ms. Rosales said. “The most important thing with a couple is to make sure that you are friendly and do stuff together.”

“But you also have to have your own things,” she added. “It’s not healthy if you’re always doing the same things.”

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