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Dear PoP – My Elderly Neighbor Won’t Stop Smoking Pot and our Apartment Reeks

Photo by PoPville flickr user Bogotron

“Dear PoP,

My fiance and I rent a condo in a small condo building (9 units). My elderly downstairs neighbor smokes pot. A lot. In fact, our unit smells strongly like pot four or five times a day for at least half an hour.

We’ve lived here about a year and a half. This man’s wife died about six months ago. Before she died, we would see him occasionally smoking in the storage basement or in his car; however, I assume his wife did not approve of him smoking in the house, so we didn’t have any problems with the smell for the first year we were here. There was an occasional smell of cigarette smoke, but it was only every once in a while. Since his wife died, however, he’s moved it inside.

My fiance and I have always been friendly with him when we see him outside of the building. He doesn’t really seem to take women seriously (another post for another time!), but my fiance talked to him, told him that our bedroom smelled strongly of pot all the time, and asked him if he could try to smoke on the porch. Our neighbor was not receptive: “Why don’t you all just open a window?”

I have spoken to our landlord (the condo owner) about this. I have also spoken to the neighbor’s grandson, who moved in with his grandfather when his grandmother died. Basically, nobody feels like anything can be done. Our landlord even spoke to the condo association, and they also feel that nothing can be done.

For what it’s worth, this man is not a kind person. We often heard him yelling at and insulting his wife. (I never heard any physical abuse, though I always kept an ear out in case I need to call the police.) I’m sure he’s grieving, in his way. He doesn’t seem to have dementia, though he’s seemed a bit out-of-it on occasion lately (perhaps he’s just high?) I don’t know if his pot smoking has increased since his wife died, but I imagine it has. We’re just the kids upstairs to him, I’m sure (when you’re 85, 35 year-olds probably seem like kids), and we don’t have the kind of relationship where we can broach trying to help him. From anything I’ve heard from other neighbors, he’s highly defensive in general and also tends to insult people directly. The grandson is an adult in his mid-twenties , but talking to him about the issue or concerns about his grandfather’s health doesn’t really go anywhere.

I’m just wondering if the PoP readers can think of anything I haven’t tried. I don’t really care about the legalities, etc; I just don’t want to smell pot when I’m at home. For what it’s worth, except for him, this is a great unit at a great price in a great location (and I’m already too busy working full-time and going to school and planning a wedding) so we don’t want to move away from here until we’re ready to buy (another year or two).

Any ideas?”

I’m afraid I don’t think there are any simple/quick answers here. Besides talking to him and getting him to change his behavior I don’t think anything else will compel him to change. We’ve spoken about cigarette smoke in apartments before but this is certainly a much more complicated situation. Even though it may seem uncomfortable, I really think the only thing you can do is continue to try to talk to the neighbor even if he is completely ornery. You might even want to bake him a pie or get him some dinner or something to break the ice. I know it may feel insincere but maybe you can win him over with friendship?

If he continues to not be receptive to rational actions/conversations then I’m afraid the only other option is to move (congrats on your wedding by the by!). Can you guys think of any other diplomatic/sensitive ways to resolve this situation?

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