Where Can I Legally Smoke My Legal Weed?
In a 1914 work titled Mending Wall, famed poet Robert Frost penned the infamous line “Good fences make good neighbors”. The idea being, the less often neighbors actually have to deal with each other, the more likely they are to get along.
For decades, one of the most common gripes between neighbs has been secondhand smoke. There is no fence high enough to contain it. When the Surgeon General warned that even secondhand smoke from cigarettes was potentially carcinogenic, complaints shot through the roof.
But as cigarette smoking has drastically declined in popularity over the past 5-10 years, the popularity and frequency of cannabis use has steadily increased over the same timeframe.
Now, it is crucial to point out that cannabis smoke (firsthand, secondhand, anyhand…) has never been shown to be cancer causing. Certainly some people with respiratory ailments ought to avoid it, but overall it is safe to say that secondhand weed smoke is not a public health risk.
That still won’t stop a nosy neighbor from bitching and moaning about it, though, so it is important to know your rights as a cannabis smoker.
Unfortunately, since cannabis is still illegal and a Schedule I drug at the federal level, every state that has some form of cannabis legalization has done it their own way. On top of that, many states allow individual counties and cities to pass their own cannabis-related ordinances making for a patchwork of legal hoops to be aware of depending on where you live.
It is absolutely essential that you do your own due diligence on that and research exactly what your rights are based on your location.
For this article, we are going to focus on California and the new regulations under the recently implemented Proposition 64 that legalized the recreational use of cannabis for adults in the state.
So what does Cali’s new cannabis law say about where you can, and cannot, spark up?
For now, unless you are at a festival or gathering that has gone through all of the state’s red tape to acquire a temporary license or permit for a public consumption cannabis event, there is nowhere legal to smoke weed in public.
So, the law states, you need to do it in the privacy of your own home.
“What about my backyard?”
Katherine McBroom, a partner at LA-based law firm Kaedian, told the San Diego Union-Tribune that, “Smoking on private property, including in the backyard, is legal under state law -- this will apply to marijuana as well.”
But, she warns, “Problems can arise with rental properties.”
“What if I am renting?”
There is no doubt that you have more rights as a weed smoking homeowner than you do as a weed smoking renter in California. Let’s look a little closer.
Under Prop64, landlords and property owners retain their right to totally ban all smoking in their buildings or on their property. That’s right, you can’t smoke in public & you can’t smoke in your own pad… welcome to legalization!
As with most problems, it starts with a complaint.
So if you live in tight quarters – like an apartment building, condos, or other multifamily housing – it will just take one loudmouth neighbor to cause those problems and far too often the landlord will just issue a blanket ban on all smoking hoping to keep the peace.
If you are caught toking up after such a ban, you might not be liable under state law but you will be in breach of your rental or lease agreement and could find yourself packing up all your shit just because you like to pack an occasional bowl.
Many “experts” suggest resorting to vape pens or edibles to “keep the peace” but, with all neighborly respect, fuck that!
Dog shit smells but we aren’t banning dogs, are we?
The mouthwatering aroma of a perfectly simmering Cardiff Crack tri-tip roast on the grill could be offensive to a vegan but somehow the butcher blocks keep fuckin’ choppin’ meat!
Unfortunately, the law might not agree with those analogies if your landlord decides to flex his or her rights under the flawed Prop 64. Hopefully, as legal cannabis use becomes more mainstream, tenants will be more comfortable talking to potential landlords about their cannabis use and work it all out before they even move in.
Sometimes though the decision could be totally out of the landlord’s hands.
In some northern California cities like Berkeley and San Mateo, as well as down in Pasadena, local ordinances are in place that require all residential multi-unit housing to be 100% smoke free.
“So if I own my place, I’m good?”
Well, not necessarily.
As long as you have neighbors who are not down with cannabis, you’ve got a potential problem.
More and more communities are implementing HOA’s, or home owners associations, which outline hyperlocal rules and guidelines aimed at preserving certain aspects of specific neighborhoods.
Depending on how aggressive your local HOA is, enough “nuisance” complaints to them by your neighbor could lead to fines and general inconvenience for you.
The lesson here is that the “legalization” of cannabis is still far too ambiguous in many cases to the point that just in California alone, the term means vastly different things to different people even if they live on the same street!
If you find yourself stuck in a dispute over dank with a nosy neighbor, it may be best to try to find a compromise that works for you both before the landlord, HOA, or even a bored local law enforcement officer is forced into the middle.
But, as legal adult cannabis consumers in California, our defense seems that it should be a strong one – how can the law expressly prohibit public consumption, but one whiny neighbor can strip us of our right to private consumption as well?
This is one of the many dangerous traps lurking in the language of Prop64 in California, and likely in similar legislation making its way across the country.
Do your research.
Know your rights.
Don’t like them?
Fight for more.