There is no recourse

line to pick up free cannabis seeds back in March

New law leads to definitive answer to the controversial post My Elderly Neighbor Won’t Stop Smoking Pot and our Apartment Reeks. On the MPD 5D listserv a resident asked:

“Now that marijuana has been decriminalized, is there any recourse for us? We live in a semi detached house on Taylor Street NE. Our next door neighbors (who we share a wall with) smoke pot a lot. We can smell it through the walls frequently. It’s disgusting, Is there anything we can do? They rent the house.”

MPD responded:

“It is not illegal to smoke marijuana in a private residence.

For more information about marijuana, please visit”

And there you have it.

84 Comment

  • Nope, sorry folks. It’s just as legal as that curried fish the indian dude who stinks up the whole apartment building has.

    Sucks, but at least it’s not cigarette smoke! That stuff makes houses smell forever.

  • Legalized, not decriminalized.

  • Way back when pot was illegal, this happened to me too. I alerted the neighbors to the issue. They were in their own house, not mine, so they didnt expect me to be affected. Once they realized it was seeping into my house, they felt bad and took steps to remedy it. You can gift them a box of febreeze sheets, some tape, and half a soda bottle. My friends tell me thats a great way to deodorize smoke on the way out. Definitely my friends have told me that.

    Anyway, my advice here is to go and talk to them. Few people are actually trying to do something to disturb you, they probably just dont know.

    • There is such an easy remedy to this situation if the neighbors care enough to make the effort. They just need to vaporize instead of smoking. Vaping has very little odor and is really the way things are going. It’ll be a while before smoking becomes a thing of the past.

      • not at all. I’ve tried every vape under the sun. oils and dry herbs. i’ll take smoking any day.

        • I forced myself to stick to vaping and now it just seems normal, even prefrerred. In apartment buildings, smoking really reeks. Heck, my entire apartment reeks when I pull a single bud out for more than a couple minutes. I like the smell but I can understand if others don’t. Vaping and edibles will get better with time.

  • Regardless of the illegality, strong orders can still be considered nuisances if they are offensive. I would think this argument could hold some water.

    • Nuisance is not a police issue, it is a civil suit. Good luck with that and the costs involved. They may still be able to win, but it will cost them some money.

  • Weed may be legalized, but so is tobacco, and a man was recently prohibited by court order from smoking in his home because it was nuisance to his next door neighbors:

    Obviously taking someone to court is an expensive, and timely, action but I imagine this sets a precedent that could be applied to people smoking weed in their own homes.

    • The folks suing are lawyers, hence there wasn’t a big cost burden. They can just litigate that guy into submission. There’s also racial-socioeconomic undertones to that case.
      My main takeaway here: don’t live next to a lawyer. Especially if you want to do things in your private residence that some may deem offensive.

      • That’s interesting to know. So in this case, not much of a cost for the couple that filed the lawsuit. However I’m not a lawyer so, if I was looking to take a neighbor to court for a similar reason, then the cost for me would be much higher. I still think that, pending the outcome of the challenge to the court order issued in this case, that a precedent will be set that allows people to take their neighbors to court over marijuana use in their homes, if it creates a nuisance. Potentially this will create an easy path for non-lawyers to follow when dealing with “nuisances” (many lawsuits will probably be frivolous, hence the “”) created by next door neighbors.

      • I’m sorry, where are the “racial-socioeconomic undertones” you speak of? I read a ton of articles on the case and from what it sounds like to me, the couple even offered to PAY out of pocket to correct the problem for the neighbor and he refused. Sounds like a simple case of a nuisance to me.

        • I think he means simply poorer Black neighbor vs white family moving into the neighborhood. I am not at all like the gentrifier in this case, and I find smoke smell seeping in VERY offensive. It stinks. My hair, clothes, everything stunk! Now if someone smoked outside and it came in through my open window, that’s one thing, but someone who insists on smoking indoors with easy access outside or an offer to fix the issues is nothing more than nuisance.

          • Yes, exactly. I wasn’t making a judgment here, but there are racial-socioeconomic factors at play that have really amplified the drama in this particular case. Just read some of the online comments on this case in the local DC press.
            Anyways, I agree with you that this guy is a nuisance. The family has done a lot to make him an offer to fix it, but he won’t take it. Not sure why he’s being so stubborn about it. But I also bristle at the fact that a judge is forcing this guy to stop smoking in his own house; that doesn’t sit right with me. The family also has not adequately proven that the renovation/flip of their house is not the cause of the smoke, IMHO.

  • I am still confused whether DC law allows people to smoke marijuana in their yards? If not, wouldn’t it make more senses to allow people who live in apartment/condo buildings to step outside to smoke it, instead of using it in a building. Many people, for example, step outside when they want to smoke a cigarette. This seems like a better solution for those who live in communal buildings.

    • I would think that you need to remain on private property, similar with drinking. So you could smoke in your backyard or balcony, but not on the sidewalk in front of your generic luxury apartment building.
      In essence, you need an outdoor space that is contained on private property.

      • I think that is wrong. I think you actually have to be indoors, if I’m remembering correctly what the Post reported.

        • “The OP Anon” is correct.

        • You are allowed to smoke on your front porch, but not your front yard (nor back yard). If you are in a multi unit building such as a condo or apartment building they can set rules that prevent you from smoking in your unit or on the front porch. Police have shared this at the last two PSA meetings. I can’t find a good link on the MPD site yet…

          • The only place off limits is the front yard. The back yard is fine. The front porch or stoop is fine. Don’t ask me why.

      • justinbc

        Well that adds a whole new selling point to condo buildings with roof decks / pools / etc.

  • Did you hear about the Northeast D.C. man can’t smoke in his own home due to temporary, precedent-setting court order? This case is going to be interesting.

  • I have an air filter unit positioned against a certain wall in my apartment for this very reason. It was a problem before the legalization, and it’s not going to get better now! I don’t want my clothing or furniture smelling like pot.

  • I wonder if moisture blocking paint would have any effect? I’d try that before taking my neighbor to court, I think.

    • IIRC, the neighbors doing the suing offered to pay to fix the guy’s wall; however, he refused to allow them access to his house. He’s stubbornly stupid and they come across as the prototypical whiny, entitled gentrifiers wanting to recreate the suburbs in The Big City. No one is looks good in this case, IMHO.

      • People may have seen them that way, but I have been in that situation, and I know how bad it can get. I didn’t realize my downstairs neighbor smoked constantly, and it was ever present even though we worked opposite schedules. I’d wake up to smoke filling my living area. She was next door to the front door…10-20ft away and had a back patio, but she refused to simply go outside when the weather permitted. I eventually moved away rather than deal with it, then she moved, and although her lease and our rules prohibit smoking indoors, her tenants similarly refuse to simply step a few feet outside. The foyer reeks of smoke and pot.
        Anyone offering to mitigate their issue if only you gave them access to the problem come off very proactive to me.

        • justinbc

          Cigarette smoke is so disgusting. I would have to find a way to move in that situation, I really couldn’t tolerate it.

          • Yup. That is in fact what happened, but my tenants are big on the air fresheners, so they never noticed and neighbor moved soon after I rented it. Once a witness came forward, the issues seem to have subsided with neighbors’ tenants, thank goodness. I’m considering a move back, but I’m leery as neighbor doesn’t seem to GaF about what her tenants do as long as they pay rent. No guarantee new tenants will be any better.

  • I don’t know the rules, but found this. Contact the landlord, I guess.

    Q. I’m a renter; can I smoke marijuana in my apartment?
    A. In most instances, that’s up to you and your landlord. But, if you live in public housing the
    answer is no.

  • Get them a vaporizer?

  • Ok, so “It is not illegal to smoke marijuana IN a private residence” but what about outside, say on a front porch? I find it impossible to open my front windows as my neighbors smoke on their porch and it blows right in my home.

    • My guess? You’re SOL (sh#t out of luck). Your situation wouldn’t be any different if they were smoking cigarettes.
      Me? I’d probably overwhelm them with friendliness and ask if they could take their smoking to the backyard. Don’t make a big deal out of it or be overly dramatic. Just explain that the smoke is getting in the house and it would be easier if they smoked in the backyard.

    • I have been to two PSA (Police Service Area) meetings in the 407 where we have been told that smoking on a front porch is allowed but the front yard and back yard is not. I believe the front yard restriction goes back to the issue that front yards are not considered private property.

      • Here we go again. Front yards are only “not-private” in a small subset of homes, mostly in the historic heart of the city. Someone with time can do an archive search, but its been explained a lot in this forum.

      • This is really interesting. Did they explain why the back yard would not be “private property”? I can’t see how the backyard is illegal if the front porch/stoop is legal.
        The front yard plat ownership issue only really applies in the Old City, IIRC. Once you get further north in DC, most homes also own the front yard.

    • I think is all revolves around what is private property/property lines. WAMU indicates that back and front porch is OK and so is the back yard – again if it is not that residences property then it is illegal. However, I wouldn’t on the front porch because of where the property line in the front starts. Someone can smoke in their back yard but if they stepped on to the sidewalk or a back alley then it would be illegal.

    • Yes, it is legal to smoke on your porch, stoop, etc as that is an extension of your private property. Here’s what I have to say to any renters in DC who are complaining about smells, smoking, noise, and other legal activities that cause annoyance: Move. You are renting, you are free to go. This is urban living, very simple. If you don’t like it, I promise there is an equally nice cheaper rental in Virginia or Maryland for you. Ohh I see, you want to live walking distance to your office and where all your friends are. Well then, learn to put up with the noises and smells of city living.

  • Headline in incorrect. As others have pointed out, there is recourse in the form of a civil action and there is plenty of legal precedence. However it won’t be easy. Here’s some guidance pertaining to the issue in the District: and perhaps Smoke Free or another organization could recommend pro-bono representation.

    On another note, it may be time that DC follow other states and classify unwanted second hand smoke within one’s residences as a nuisance. Contact your chairperson if this interests you.

  • Buy them a vaporizer?

  • I was at a dinner party on Saturday at friends house in Petworth. Lovely dinner, nice warm weather with the windows open… But two houses down there were about 6 people smoking pot on their porch. Out host’s home REEKED. They were mortified. I support marijuana decriminalization, but the smell was obnoxious. Our clothes even smelled after leaving.

  • I realize that this doesn’t help the sense of offense that original poster feels- but- there are ways to considerably reduce the communication of airflow between units that share a wall. One of the quickest and most effective ways would be to slightly pressurize your home so that the driving force of the airflow is out rather than in. This is a common ventilation strategy and basically involves installing a fan similar to a bath fan in reverse with the duct (which will now be supplying fresh air to your house, instead of exhausting it like a bath fan), located somewhere outside where you can pull in fresh, non pot-smoked, air into your home. This will do two things- 1. Provide fresh air to the home which will dilute a lot of odors and; 2. Place the house in positive pressure so that there is less chance of the air from your neighbor’s home infiltrating your home.

    • Talk to a professional before doing this. If you are just using a fan you need to duct it to the return of your AC unit. Having a fan that provides unconditioned outside air is a terrible idea and prohibited by building code. The best way to do it is to install an energy recovery ventilator and balance it to provide more outside air than it exhausts instead.

      • Not true. In fact, supply-only ventilation is an allowable ventilation strategy per ASHRAE 62.2. Furnace ducting is certainly one way to go about it- but at the significant energy burden of running your furnace fan for the purposes of minor ventilation. In a relatively mild climate like DC a low-watt continuous supply ventilation fan is a fine and beneficial strategy. ERV’s are fine, but won’t do as much to address the odor infiltration issue and at a significant cost for a climate like ours.

  • This is the problem with DC legalization. I fully support legalization in theory, but they way DC has done it will increase negative consequences of weed while hamstringing police efforts to do anything about it.
    We have a house that very obviously sells marijuana on our block. It’s a continuous parade of MD plates and sometimes brings violence. Occasionally people park on the block to enjoy their score before heading home. This is obviously not what the architects of the new law envisioned, but legalization makes it much harder for MPD to do anything about it. I’d really like to see legalization accompanied by a crackdown on street dealing and the accompanying violence.

    • Blame congress, this isn’t how DC intended to do it.
      They had planned to hold off legalization until cultivation, tax, and sale laws were in place which I imagine they were thinking would suck the air out of the black market. Congress hamstrung us and Bowser (shrewdly not wanting to alienate the people who had just elected her) went with the placeholder law we voted for.

      • Another unspoken reason why DC will never be allowed to allow sales, taxing, and regulation until Federal legalization takes place is that doing so in D.C. is unacceptable to drug control regimes in place in Virginia and Maryland, and even Delaware and West Virginia. These regimes would be completely undermined when residents of those states begin to make trips to the District to procure the flowering tops of plants that remain entirely illegal in those states.

    • Per what you’re saying, there needs to be a big crackdown on DWIs.

    • It’s still illegal to sell weed. In that case, you can call the cops.

    • Have you reported the drug house to MPD? Smoking in one’s own residence is permitted now, but the sale of marijuana isn’t, and I don’t think smoking in one’s car is permitted either.

    • Everything you’ve described (sales, consumption in public, violence) is already illegal and should be reported.
      The police are not hamstrung in the least bit.

      • And yet somehow it continues unabated. MPD have said that legalization makes it harder for them to enforce any weed related charges.

  • Yeah, the best way to go about it would be to talk to them in a nice and well-reasoned manner, knowing full-well that they don’t have to do anything different. It’s you that their lawful action is bothering, and as such, it’s on you to make the compromise, be it choosing to insulate walls, keep windows closed, or simply learn to live with this aspect of city life. It might suck, but that’s not your call.

    Some have found success encouraging neighbors to change to lower-odor consumption methods such as using vaporizers, even going so far as to offer to buy them the machine(You can, conceivably, write a civil contract to make such a deal legally binding). Others have simply appealed to common courtesy especially on special occasions (“Hey, I’m throwing a bbq, would you guys mind not smoking tomorrow?”). Then again, my dad once had a neighbor like that, and his answer was to handle it ironically by inviting himself over for a joint or two to talk over a mutually-beneficial solution. There are answers to this issue, but forcing them to stop isn’t one of them.

  • +1 to all who said to talk to the neighbor (although it sounds like you may have already. You should definitely talk to a lawyer who knows local civil suit options. Finding out what remedies available to you does not mean you must take them, but knowing your options might change your thinking on the whole situation (and on whether to involve the smoker’s LL).

    • Only in dc would a non-sarcastic response to this query include the advice that “you should definitely talk to a lawyer who knows local civil suit options.” Yeah, definitely talk to a lawyer. What great advice.

      • Why do you find this bad advice? People in dc make on average 80k+, and there is a surplus of lawyers here. Hiring an attorney is not that big a deal. Half the people in my apt building have law degrees and security clearances. I note pot smoking is a violation of our leases so that’s not a problem here.

  • You must have terrible ventilation for this to be stinking up your clothes. I have friends who smoke pot religiously (as in scrupulously and often, not for religious reasons) but they don’t reek like pot all the time. An occasional toke now and then also doesn’t linger unless it is in a confined space without legislation.

    • I assume you meant “without ventilation,” not “without legislation”? 😉

      • Best typo ever.

        And yeah, this is strange to me. Maybe the people are smoking… spliffs? (I think that’s what it’s called when you combine weed and tobacco). I smoke like errryday and nothing I own smells.

        • “I smoke like errryday and nothing I own smells.”
          That’s what cigarette smokers say too.

        • Yeah if you smoke everyday im guessing you reek of pot smoke, but you are so used to it you dont notice.
          I live in an apt building, and when my neighbors smoke the entire hallways is hazy with smoke. For people with federal jobs, or security clearances with drug testing, this is clearly a problem. Marijuana smoking in our building is a lease violation and will get you evicted.

          • It drives me insane too, and I don’t like having to deal with it, but I just wanted to point out that it’s really not an issue for those of us with clearances/drug testing. There have been plenty of studies done that show that second hand pot smoke doesn’t register on a drug test. I know because I was confined inside a concert for hours one night where so much pot was smoked that you could just barely see the band – panicked and googled lots of medical studies. Had a drug test two days later. The consensus is that you’d have to be breathing in someone’s smoke in an unventilated room for hours and hours before it’d even show on a drug test, and then it would have to be done within an hour or two of that.
            I don’t want my clothes smelling like it either when I go to work (or cigarette smoke, or any one of a number of things I don’t particularly want to smell like), but everyone knows it’s legal in DC now and these things happen. It won’t cost you your job or clearance (assuming you’re not smoking yourself).

  • I can understand why OP is upset and that they are frustrated. I don’t have a problem with smoking, but thought my old neighbors singing Taylor Swift on repeat late on weekdays was obnoxious, so I feel you.

    Talk to them. From my experience, people who smoke weed are real friendly and chill. Suggest vaporizers and/or smoking with a sploof. I’m sad so many people’s reactions were to start a civil suit. Really? City life leads to inconveniences and suing someone is only going to make your life more miserable.

    • justinbc

      I take it you didn’t actually read the original post, which was linked above? Otherwise you wouldn’t have suggested to “talk to them”, and scoffed at those suggesting legal advice.

      • The original post was from 4 years ago. This was a new issue that was brought up on the MPD 5D listserve.

        • justinbc

          Fair point, 2 stories going on concurrently in the same article.

          • It confused me at first too…everyone (including me) is offering advice to someone who will probably never view the post. But, maybe someone who is having a similar problem will read the responses?

  • Do some air sealing, if the smoke is bothering you there is obviously a draft coming from their house to yours. Aside from smells you don’t like there could also be pests coming in and chances are this draft initially comes from outside costing you on your energy bills so now you have triple the motivation to do some air sealing.
    They have pros for this if you aren’t up to the task.
    Rather than trying to change your neighbors behavior or get them locked up, sued, etc. Why not fix your wall?

  • If you were really at your wit’s end, would it hurt to try and contact the DEA? I mean, to them, it’s still illegal.

    • Anonynon

      wow….you really think that is a solution? Makes me sick that people think that is a good idea to have someone arrested due to a smell.

    • Yeah, because contacting the DEA is a totally normal response to this problem.

      • It’s a solution. If you have a better one, offer it.

        • I lived in a blessed world where the smell of pot smoke doesn’t bother me, so I guess my solution is to chill out and not worry about it, but clearly I’m in the minority!

  • Sixty plus comments on the minutiae of where exactly one can legally smoke weed . . . as if DC were a gated community in NOVA with reams of ordinances that everyone strictly follows . . . at least in petworth, police don’t seem to GaF about these broken windows, quality-of-life issues . . . shit, I live within just a few blocks of at least three houses selling hard drugs and the police don’t do anything.

  • Still pretty confused about the law. I live in a row house that has a roof top deck. Am I allowed to smoke/ grow on my roof? Keep in mind that it’s a row house, not an apartment building. My roommates and I are the only ones who have access to the roof area. Any feedback would be helpful.

    • Check out the MPD webpage cited in the original post, it will answer your questions.

      • I may be missing something but the website does not mention anything about using/growing on the roof of your house.

        • “Use marijuana on private property”
          “Cultivate within their residence up to six marijuana plants, no more than three of which are mature”
          Your roof deck is private property so you can smoke there. Your roof deck is not within your residence so you can’t grow there.

  • I hope you voted against the legislation. Pot smoke is gross.

    • “It’s gross” is maybe the worst argument for something to be illegal.

      Gay sex is pretty gross.
      Dog poop is GROSS!
      Man, tofu is so gross.

  • Find out who the landlord is and contact them about the smoking policy for the unit. If it’s rented as a non-smoking unit, and that is in their lease, the landlord could remind them of that stipulation. If it isn’t a designated non-smoking unit talk to the landlord about making it so — I’m sure the owner of the house would like to know about it.

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