Dear PoPville – “Pothead tenants stinking up my apartment”

Photo by PoPville flickr user District Shots

Dear PoPville,

I’ve lived in the same apartment for a number of years with no problems. It’s an older building and the heating system includes large vents on the floor. Recently, the strong smell of marijuana has been coming through the vent on a daily basis. Because it’s coming from the vent, I believe it’s the tenants downstairs. If this was just once in awhile, we’d try to just ignore it; but this is happening every day and sometimes multiple times a day.

I’d really like to get this to stop, but I don’t feel comfortable confronting the tenant in person. Based on past experience, I doubt the office staff will take any meaningful action. So, I feel that I’m left with calling the police – so do I just call 311? Does anyone out there in PoPville have any suggestions?

We discussed a somewhat similar situation back in April ’11 when an elderly neighbor’s pot smoke was also getting into someone’s apartment. Is it possible you could leave a note under the offending resident’s door?

88 Comment

  • Sounds like you need to relax. I have an idea…

  • My basement apartment always smells of marijuana smoke because of the outstanding citizens that reside in the house next door. They smoke in their basement and backyard and the smoke reaches my apartment somehow…

    Also I believe 311 is no longer being used for non-emergency police calls so 911 would be your best option.

    • 911 is not your best option. If you are worried about hostile neighbors, you should be more concerned about how they feel towards you after you skip practical steps 1-3 (1. Write a note 2. Talk in person 3. Tell Building Management) and go straight to the law. Chances are they don’t know it is bothering anyone and will gladly change their habits, especially if it means facing charges and possible ramifications with their employer, etc.

      • We had the same problem and called the police, and they basically told us there was nothing they could do about it. Good luck.

    • D’oh! Neighbor, is that you?

    • Wow, so cool, my neighbor is a PoP reader! 😉

  • Potheads tend to be pretty docile, so I’d just bite the bullet and go talk to them about it. No need to get any authoritative figures involved. Just explain to them that your apartment is stinky because they’re smoking the reefer, and i’m sure the fear of having their spot blown up will cause them to alter their “methods” so it doesn’t interfere with your day-to-day existence.

    • +1. If you’re still concerned about a possible confrontation, leave an anonymous note, but at least give them a chance to make a change before calling the cops. They may have no idea it’s going beyond the walls of their apt.

      • -1 for anonymous notes. If you have a problem with someone, knock on their door and politely deal with it.

        • Kalorini

          Last time I tried to “politely deal with” something, I got a very friendly, “WHO THE F*CK IS IT?” when I knocked on my neighbor’s door. After that, I called the police for noise complaints.

          Turns out they were also delinquent on their rent payments, were aggressive to the front desk staff, had a number of noise complaints, and were dealing drugs out of their apartment. They eventually got evicted 🙂

          • kalorini, I agree with you comment. In today’s world, one must be very careful in approaching individuals on an issue like this. I had a problem with my Salvadoran neighbors about letting their children run and scream in the hallway day and very late at night getting off the elevator. I asked them politely, please don’t let your kids run or make nosie in the hallway. The 18 year old, the mother of the child told me to mind my business and I was a crazy old man. I emailed my landlord and found out, they were trying to get rid of these tenants because another Spanish speaking tenant had complained on them. Again, I tried talking to the neighbors about the noise and about 6 of them crused at me using racial insults and wanted to attack me. I end up calling the police and attemped to get a restraining order against these people. I became miserable and depressed because I had lived in my building for 32 years. It was hard for the landlord to get these people to move because the laws in D.C. tend to favor tenants. I’ve dealt with tenants smoking reefer in the past, but I’ve learned to keep my mouth shut and try not to rock the boat. It’s very hard to do, but one doesn’t want to lose their temper and go off on others that infringe on your quality of life. Good luck and be careful, if you approach your neighbors downstairs. One suggestion, you might contact 3D or 4D Vice Unit without giving your name and tell them about the situation.

          • kalorini , I forget to mention, my landlords got rid of those tenants that verbally attacked me and made my life and other family lives miserable. After they moved, I slept good because I was a nervous wreck and I didn’t want to fight these people. I truly hope this person will resolve their problem because I know what they are going through.

  • Yeah… Just go talk to them… What could go wrong?

  • Tell them to buy a vaporizer.

  • just grow a pair and go down and ask them to stop. if they don’t, then the police are an option. you’re probably one of those people that think it’s a good thing the country’s prisons are filled with non-violent drug offenders, huh?

    • Not all of us have the option of “growing a pair”. And many of us have had majorly bad experiences with politely asking “neighbors” to adjust their behavior. Even though the OP’s past experiences suggest that this would probably be less than useful, it might be worth it to try enlisting the help of the building staff at least one more time — before moving on to plan B. Having said that, if the neighbors seem like they might be reasonable people (often hard to tell, I know), I would either try speaking directly with them, or going the anonymous note route — on the assumption that they probably have no idea that their smoke is wafting beyond their own apartment.

    • you’re probably one of those people that think it’s a good thing the country’s prisons are filled with non-violent drug offenders, huh?

      Wow – presumptious, are we?

      I don’t see any statement about drug laws or penal reform here. I just see someone dealing with a nuissance neighbor and seeking out a tactful solution.

      I’m sure there are plenty of pro-legalization, pro medical marijuana, etc advocates who don’t pratake or don’t enjoy the invasive smell of it in their homes on a daily basis. Not everyone wants their curtains to smell like doob

  • I smoke fairly regularly in my apartment. If another person in the building came by and just asked me to figure out a way to keep the smoke from bothering them, I’d totally do it. Just be friendly and neighborly and I’m sure he will respond in kind. There are plenty of ways to keep smoke from becoming a pain to others. I usually smoke near an open a window and keep a fan on. Getting the city or Johnny Law involved seems very drastic before you try talking to him neighbor to neighbor.

  • Agree with previous commenter, the neighbor probably doesn’t realize how much it’s affecting you, and you shouldn’t call 911 on them. Just let him/her know and they’ll likely adjust their behavior.

  • I faced the same situation earlier this year. Just go down and let them know that the smell bothers you and that it comes up directly through your vents. Once I mentioned it they stopped – or at least started blowing the smoke out the window.

  • drop a dime

  • When you go talk to them, try to catch them when they are not stoned. Otherwise, they’ll instantly forget what you were asking them and assume you are there delivering pizza.

  • I had a neighbor who smoked in her apartment all the time. Another person in the building routinely left passive-aggressive notes in the hallways on a weekly basis threatening to have her busted.

    I asked her once what she thought of the notes. She said “If they had the courtesy to come down and treat me like a person and let me know I’m bothering them, I’d probably go outside on the patio or roll a joint and take a walk. But until they stop this chicken-shit with the notes, I’ll ignore them.”

    Learn to be a neighbor and be a person. Take some initiative and solve your problems yourself. These are potheads. They’re not on PCP. They’re not going to hurt you.

    • That’s ridiculous, your neighbor is a total dick. She is childish and immature, and most likely she was just rationalizing her antisocial behavior. Ten bucks says if the neighbor did come and talk she would brush that off too. “Can you believe that some squares still get all uptight about a little smoke? They need to relax.” It doesn’t matter how the message gets sent; if you are disturbing your neighbors and continue to do so after they have made you aware of it, you are an asshole.

      That being said, if it’s something like being loud or messy, grow a pair and knock on the door. When it comes to illegal activities, you are well within your right to leave a note. Sure, crazies and psychos can flip out on you for asking them to turn down their music too, but they are much more likely to get angry if they know you have the power to send them to jail as opposed to a $25 ticket or whatever a noise violation is.

      What happens if after you talk to them, somebody else calls the cops and they get arrested/evicted? Sure, your friendly suburban pothead isn’t going to come get revenge, but what if it was a major dealer, or someone who likes PCP just as much as weed?

  • Knock on the door and hand them a paper towel tube filled with dryer sheets, a pack of petchulli insense and some pop-tarts.

    They are pot-heads not crack-whores. Talk to ’em and let them know what the situation is.

    If you are thinking of a note – check out this for inspiration:

  • Hey OP, that was me. I’m sorry. In the future I will do my best to hey Aqua Teen is on!

  • I saw a couple kids smoking a blunt in the alley next to my garage a few weeks ago, actually on my neighbor’s property. I totally wanted to join them but then realized said neighbor of mine is a cop!

    anyway, I agree with Yaya. they probably don’t even know they are bothering you.

  • Rave: Perry quits
    Rant: worried that Newt, the pig, will benefit

  • First, not everyone who smokes pot is the stereotypical docile pothead, so it’s perfect reasonable that the neighbor might not want to confront them. Also, there are many, many entitled people in this world who will take a request to stop something annoying as an insult to their personal freedom. Of course, you don’t really know their attitude until you go talk to them. There also could be issues with talking to them like what if you have to call the police on them for some unrelated issue, like domestic violence? Obviously they are going to know who called if you’ve already complained to them about the pot smoke.

    I personally have nothing against weed but frankly, it smells nasty.

  • I have the same problem but I dont know which unit it is coming from. I used to smoke pot so I dont necessarily have that big of an issue with it, but when my kids smell it – it bothers me.

  • Easy solution — the next time you smell weed, wait an hour or two, order a pizza, and bring the pizza as a sign of good will. After your neighbor stops hugging you and STFU about how awesome you are, ask nicely if they can try to better vent out their smoke or consider a vaporizer (better smoke and better for lungs to boot).

    If all fails, ask to join. If you become a freeloading pest they may cool it or smoke elsewhere

  • It seems odd to call the police in this case. If the problem had been cigarette smoke, you’d be in the same situation without that option.

    I think you should at least try and talk to the tenants about it. Perhaps suggest some of those magnetic vent covers for the times when they choose to smoke?

  • I think it is always inappropriate to call the authorities before you have attempted to solve the problem face-to-face. It’s just flat out rude and childish. Put yourself in your neighbors’ shoes – how would you feel about it?

    Calling in the cops or a huge waste of everyone’s time (and money) and generates much more ill-will than a friendly conversation.

    My friend just received a court order because apparently her next-door neighbor filed a complaint about her dogs barking. She would have been happy to resolve this issue in person. But now they must spend hours in court, preparing witnesses, getting documents notarized, etc. Totally absurd. Not to mention, what a pathetic waste of our tax dollars.

    • Does anyone know if the cops would even bother coming out for this? I’ve been the victim of real crime in DC and encountered cops who don’t give a shit. I would hope the cops laugh at you if you have the nerve to waste their time on something like this. I certainly hope you’re not the victim of a real crime with a threat of injury while the cops are busy making sure someone’s apartment doesn’t smell unpleasant. I had a couple of neighbors who cooked Indian food all the time and the building reeked of curry. Didn’t see me calling 911 over it.

      • Yeah, next to zero chance that the cops would respond to this. Unless the word “gun” is in your 911 call, you have at best a 50% chance of a patrol car coming by. “I smell pot coming from my neighbor’s apartment” would probably be just above traffic tickets on the enforcement list.

      • buddy, I hope this is a joke. I don’t care if you dislike both the smell of Indian food and pot… pot is HARMFUL TO YOUR HEALTH. as a mother, I wouldn’t let this go on for more than 5 minutes in my building. this analogy is one of the dumbest ones I’ve ever seen on here.

      • I had neighboors in the English basement of my rowhouse that would smoke pot and stink up the house so bad that it would wake me up…on the third floor of the house. My roommates and I tried talking to them, leaving them notes, threatening them and eventually screaming at them. When that didn’t work and they continued to be assholes, we called the cops. And yes, they came out to our house about 20 minutes after we called. It does feel like a huge waste of resources, but sometimes people want to test how far they can go.

  • Wow apparently most of pop’s readers are potheads.

    I am one of those people that most people hate on POP. I own two dogs that do have to go to the bathroom outsite. Plus I ride a bike to work everyday. Apparently i should have the crap beat out of me for

    A. my dogs pee and poop
    2. I will run a red light every now and then.
    D. I am a young white, who bought a house, fixed it up, and had kids.

    Smoking pot is Illegal. in most appartment buidlings you can’t smoke cigs anyway, so why pot? Do what I do every single day. USE COMMON SENSE! if you’re dog looks like its gonna take a dump in somebody’s nice garden pull them away. If there is absolutely nobody at and intersection and you’re on a bike, Hell go through it. If you have some neighbors like I do that are “extremely hard working law abiding individuals” getting smoke in your appartment, call the damn cops. If they are just normal folks, go knock on the friggin door, leave note. if that doesn’t work. Call the cops. It’s against the law. Just like I will have no complaint if an cop gives me a ticket for going through a red light… rant done.

    • You must be new. PoP’ers love dogs. They love renovating houses too and there are tons of posts about kids. I do rail on the dog thing some times but I am a total outlier in that regard.

      • Post script. I am a father of two with a serious career and much as I’d like to be smoking pot as much as possible I don’t smoke pot. However, I would never in a million trillion years consider calling the police on my neighbors for such behavior without first trying a less serious course of action. You really think it is warranted to place a drug charge on someone’s record, clog our courts, possibly to serious damage to a person’s life without first making a direct request. That is bush league.

        • TG,

          I have read pop for a couple of years, and i was joking about being most hated. What i meant was these are the topics that seem to bring out the most emotion in the readers.

          what confuses me about your statement is it seems like because you have two children and have a serious career… you don’t smoke pot. Maybe because you don’t want your kids around it, and maybe because it may put your serious career in jepordy. Why, why could it may do this, because it’s illegal, unlike cooking Indian food. So lets say the OP has a serious career, is it fair to him or her to smell like pot.

          • except for the fact that DC allows it for medicinal purposes. you sound uptight. maybe you need…..

          • Legality has something to do with it for sure with me. Security clearances, drug tests etc. My kids are too young to know the difference. I was trying to make a point that you don’t have to be a pothead to advocate for trying step one before going to step 3. I don’t think it is fair to be a nuisance property, no. I am just saying don’t jump to the nuclear option first. My only real point.

          • yeah you are right… i do have bad allergies, and sometimes get headaches. I can get pot for that right? You see what pot does for you.

            About 50 of the first comments on this thread were posted right away, mostly all seem to be advocates for pot. Working hard aren’t we.

            TG, not worrying about exposing your kids to pot smoke!!! I hope thats more important than your job. Plus read what I first said, USE COMMON SENSE. if the people are resonable, talk to them first, seems by this thread… most are not. If I seem uptight, I have dealt with this before

    • “Smoking pot is Illegal”

      The DC medical marijuana rules and regulations were finalized December 2, 2011. It is no longer illegal for one to smoke cannabis in the District, provided that one possesses a valid DC medical marijuana patient card.

      Feel free to browse the relevant sections of the DC Muni Regs:

  • I think this is a pretty easy fix – leave them a note. Be very polite, and say something like “I know you probably didn’t know that the smoke from marijuana is coming through to other apartments from yours, but it is and it is becoming an annoyance to other residents in the building. We do not want our clothes and furniture and home to smell this way. Please make arrangements to seal off your air vents, smoke marijuana elsewhere, or otherwise address this issue.” 90% chance that resolves the issue on the spot. If that doesn’t work, take it a step up and ask one of your local police officers (you can meet them at your PSA meetings – check the MPD website for the date and time of yours) to drop by sometime (when they’re not stoned) and mention to them that the odor of marijuana does, in DC, constitute probable cause for a search. If that doesn’t work, call the cops every single time they’re smoking until they get hauled off to jail. A couple arrests for simple possession will get them to stop, or better yet, move.

    • I’d second this as the most pragmatic solution. To the extent it’s possible, an anonymous note would neither invite retaliation (if these neighbors are absolute a-holes or dangerous dealers rather than the stereotypical docile stoner) nor leave them without notice that you’re annoyed, expect it to be remedied immediately, and will take legal action if they don’t self-police. But I would feel no obligation to sign my name, talk in-person, or give them a second chance. Once you leave the note and see that it is down, it’s fair game after that. Call the cops, give them PC to search, and hope they find enough in the stash to bring some serious charges.

      I’m actually dismayed (but not surprised) at the level of support and/or justification there is in this thread for the inconsiderate neighbors. It never ceases to amaze me that people expect a polite reponse from a victim of ongoing and chronic impoliteness. City livin’ and all that is fine … don’t set an impossible threshold, but don’t assume you just have to take it because “that’s life in the city.” Once you eliminate the possibility/plausibility that it’s just a neighbor’s obliviousness, they’re the a-hole, not you. Do what you must.

  • Do you object to the weed, or to the smell? If it’s the smell, then would you consider calling the cops if the smell were of broccoli or popcorn or something? Probably not, so don’t call the cops for this. Figure out a way to let them know they are bothering you, a way that you are comfortable with, and a way that lets them know who is complaining. Like others have said, there should be many, many steps between doing nothing and calling the cops.

  • Just the other day I caught these two people playing backgammon at a bar without buying anything and I knew this had to qualify as loitering so I called 911 to report it.

  • How would you respond if this person were cooking chitlins’ or smoking something legal like cigarettes? I find the smell of both more objectionable than marijuana.

  • Um, whereabouts do you live, out of curiosity?

  • Print this page out and slip it under their door…

  • This post reminded me of an article in the Post yesterday about second-hand smoke in apartment buildings and how some are trying to crack down on it. I think your right to smoke cigarettes stops at another person’s right to breathe fresh air. This idea that you wouldn’t hassle your neighbor about their Indian food is a non sequitor. Indian food does not cause cancer; second hand smoking does. If you want to smoke to your heart’s content inside, buy a single family home. When you rent or live in a condo, you should be considerate of others’ health. As someone said in the Post comments, arguing otherwise is like saying someone can go to the bathroom on their side of the pool and not affect you on your side of the pool. An apt comparison! It is 2012- time for people to unapologetically fight for their right to clean air in their own space.

    • I don’t have to buy a single family home just to smoke a cigarette.

      • Does it ever cross your mind as to what sort of impact your smoking is having on others’ health around you? Not to be jerk, but I’m truly curious. After reading all the comments in the Post article, it was clear to me that smokers were adamant about their own right to smoke when and where they want. However, I saw little recognition that their habit could be detrimental to other people’s health. Why is that? For the life of me, I can’t explain why smokers are more concerned about smoking in their apartments than whether they are helping increase cancer risk. I mean, HUD is now recommending that public housing not allow smoking and the New England Journal of Medicine has also recommended not allowing smoking in any building that accepts gov’t money….

        • Why is it that people are so bitchy when it comes to smokers that might get within 50feet of them with a cigarette?, how about when I want to visit a restaurant and the trash that are there have been drinking since 2pm on a Thursday when I come in for dinner at 6pm. I have to deal with these low-lives making noise, talking loudly, and being nothing less than useless and reeking of booze…

          Why can they do so at a friggin Ruby Tuesday or something, if they want to consume alcohol go to a god-damn bar then and not to a “family restaurant”. Personally I find it disgusting that someone would who bred to even think about taking their child to a place where others are drinking alcohol of any kind. It doesn’t matter whether the item in question is illegal or not, what does matter is the fact that if it is bothering others in the same space then it is therefore inappropriate.

          If we can limit “cell phone usage” public office buildings such as the DMV, Post Office, etc so that the employees there can have some peace & quiet while working and dealing with people in a stable environment. Anyone visiting a public place, whether they are there for work or living space, the same rules should apply, so that all can have access to a peaceful enjoyable time. Case in point: when you pay $3-4 dollars for your overpriced drink at Starbucks, then you sit outside on the “dining patio” [which is nothing more than plopping a table & chairs out on the curb] and then bitch that a smoker might get near you……yet you are sitting along the curb/gutter where hundreds of cars & trucks are passing by constantly, that is just absurd, moronic and plain old stupid.

          BTW, I am not a smoker, but was raised in a family with smokers. Again, personally I would rather someone light up a cigarette next to me [seated so that the smoke does not have to blow directly into your face], vs having some piece of trash drinking booze down the street. The smell of alcohol makes me want to vomit, anyone who does so is typically not worth my time anyway as I have never met someone who drinks to be high on the ladder of evolution. To me, smoke is still better than being intoxicated, anytime!!!!!!!!!!

          • One can only hope that this person (perhaps the same person as “Stop the tree killing”?) is trolling ironically, rather than seriously.

  • You could fight it..or just go with it.. (from Cheech and Chong’s “Up in Smoke”)

  • Weird. I was smoking in my basement. The people above came down and asked me to stop because it was smelling up the house. So I stopped. We’re all adults here (hopefully), I think you can reason with them. Though I don’t know them

  • A lot of answers on this blog tend to grow out of the personal behavior of the question answerer. This person probably isnt your neighbor, so the way YOU would react to a neighbor asking you to control pot smoke isnt the way everyone would.

    It is extremely intimidating to go to a stranger, acknowledge you know theyre doing something illegal, and have them change their behavior. How do you know that they wont feel threatened? Maybe they’ll pistol whip you. Maybe they’ll tell you to fuck off. Or maybe, they’ll be nice about it.

    Honestly, not all pot smokers are your college kids, your burned out hippie, or cool uncle. Some of them are gangsta wannabes and meathead steriod addicts. You dont know who you’re going to get – so going and personally interacting with a stranger might not be the best step.

    • [email protected] x; you are so right.

  • Adults, unable to resolve incredibly minor problems without consulting a local blog…oh wait, this was meant for stuff left out of Sh!t People in DC Say. Go downstairs and talk to them, no reason to get the cops involved

  • I could have sworn the code in this city is — don’t snitch.

  • I generally agree with talking to neighbors as a first step but do people really believe that they ‘don’t realize’ that their smoke bothers other people? Who thinks that smoke just stays confined into one apartment? Cooking smells travel, smoke travels… claiming ignorance when smoking (what appears to be) multiple bowls per day seems kind of lame.

  • If you’re my neighbor, I hope you just come talk to me.

  • wish i had ur probs. tell me where U live. I am happy to tell them for U if they let me join in. also, anytime they start up again, just let me know. I’ll drop n 2 ask them to stop.

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