An Oregonian/OregonLive reader who lives in Northeast Portland complained this week that her apartment “reeked of weed” from her neighbor’s joint.
“Come legalization,” she wondered, “will I be able to do anything about it?”
The answer: Probably not.
Sgt. Pete Simpson, a spokesman for the Portland Police Bureau, said citizen complaints about marijuana smell are common.
“Really there isn’t much we can do as it’s not a crime,” he said.
Beginning July 1, anyone 21 or older may legally possess and grow marijuana in Oregon. Smoking in public remains illegal, but there’s little city officials can do when it comes to marijuana smoke bothering the neighbors.
Apartment dwellers can take it up with the building manager or owner. But enforcing a building’s no smoking the rule would fall to the apartment manager, not the cops.
Added Simpson: “Perhaps an example of the old phrase, ‘the law of unintended consequences.'”
I ran the scenario by Josh Alpert, director of strategic initiatives for Portland Mayor Charlie Hales. He likened the situation to tobacco, saying “there will very likely be no enforcement on private property.”
Alpert said city officials are working on land use and zoning issues related to the locations of recreational marijuana shops, but that offers little comfort to the resident who’s bothered by the smell of marijuana smoke.
“For people like the resident who unfortunately woke up with his apartment reeking of weed, options would likely include conversations with the landlord,” he said in an emailed response to The Oregonian/OregonLive. (For the record, the reader who complained is a woman.)
Rob Bovett, counsel for the Association of Oregon Counties, called the problem posed by marijuana smoke is a tough “nut to crack.” He said nuisance ordinances apply to marijuana, but “smell isn’t generally something regulated by the state or locals.”
The issue of marijuana-related odors is something local governments are starting to grapple with. In Medford, where the climate is ideal for growing marijuana outdoors, leaders are considering fines on backyard growers who fail to contain the smell from their plants.
Tim George, Medford police chief, said his agency gets lots of complaints about marijuana odor. He expects the problem to increase once the marijuana law goes into effect this summer. The new law allows households to grow up to four plants. (Under the medical marijuana law, patients or their growers may cultivate up to six mature plants.)
“Odor is a big thing in our neck of the woods,” George wrote in an email to The Oregonian/OregonLive. “Recreational weed will bring even more grows to backyards all over southern Oregon.”
And while people bothered by the smell of pot smoke drifting into their apartment don’t have many legal options, they can broach the issue with their neighbor.
“They may even be unaware their consumption is offending others and, when addressed in a polite manner, will most likely work out a solution,” said Russ Belville, a longtime cannabis advocate and host of a Portland-based marijuana-themed radio show who emailed his response to The Oregonian/OregonLive. “We are known for being laid back and agreeable.”
One option: the cannabis-consuming neighbor might drop the joint in favor of a vaporizer, which emits less odor.
Said Belville: “The right to consume marijuana does not grant the right to be a bad neighbor.”
— Noelle Crombie