A Caveat About My Support for Marijuana Legalization

Simply put: it's very stinky. We read with interest this post by Jon Walker about the possibility of legalization of marijuana use in Massachusetts (and the near passage in California).

While I think the pros of legalization outweigh the cons (although I have no respect for those who pretend there are no downsides), there is one serious problem related to implementation. I've lived in apartments for much of my life, and living next to a cigarette smoker is awful. In my current building, before it became smoking-free, when the smoker (and his visiting friends) fired up, my living room smelled like smoke. Visitors thought I had started smoking. If I left a coat out overnight, it smelled like smoke. It was disgusting to eat while they were smoking. When I visited went out after being in the living room if Smokey and His Bandits had been around, I smelled like a smoker.

And that's before we get to the second-hand smoke health issue.

Which brings me to pot. As I noted, I am blessed (or cursed) with a good sense of smell. I really don't want to smell someone else's pot. I don't want my clothes (or hair) to smell like someone else's pot. That being said, I really don't mind if someone lights up outside, or in their own private, detached backyard (when the weather is nice, there's usually a couple different people smoking a joint in Commonwealth Park--more often than not, they're in business suits).

So, if Massachusetts legalizes marijuana, I want to see some very strict smoking guidelines for both tobacco and marijuana. Otherwise, I'm not for lifting the ban. As I say often around these parts, people have to like this crap--and I can say that smelling like a joint will be as distasteful as a cigarette.

I'm fortunate in that I can afford to find a non-smoking building, but many people can't afford it. Without some hardass smoking regulations, I'm not in favor of lifting the ban.

Cuz it's stinky.


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I for one would love if smoking was banned in all communal housing.

I had a great uncle from Mississippi who talked a game like that. He didn't like the smell of "niggers" living in his neighborhood, and wanted them to live "somewhere's else", even though a large percentage of them were thrown in jail because of their color.

So, yeah, I'm completely sympathetic to your opposition to the legalization of marijuana because it might impinge on the delicate sensibilities of your admittedly sensitive nose. Not.

By Gingerbaker (not verified) on 12 Nov 2010 #permalink

Presumably public smoking rules would apply, but that wouldn't help residential apartment air quality. When I lived in Tennessee, a guy downstairs smoked weed all the time. It was awful. But I never reported him because I felt the penalty far outweighed my inconvenience.

Why do people smoke marijuana? Because it's so expensive.

Sixty years ago, it was cheap enough people steeped it in hot water and drank the brew. That's the origin of both slang terms 'tea' and 'pot'.

If marijuana became as cheap as green tea, people would quit smoking it. They'd brew it for consumption and powder it for culinary use.

By SnarlyOldFart (not verified) on 12 Nov 2010 #permalink

I agree; it stinks.

By Physicalist (not verified) on 12 Nov 2010 #permalink

Just because horse occationally poopoo on the street is no reason to ban horses.

Yes, Gingerbaker, restricting a habit that people CHOOSE to take up is totally the same thing as banning people from apartment complexes because of the race they were born with. Completely the same. No differences at all.

There's a difference between pot smoke and cigarette smoke that you are overlooking. The reason your coat and hair smell like cigarette smoke is the same reason cigarette smoke causes emphysema: its particulates are physically smaller than marijuana smoke particulates. Marijuana smoke may be annoying, but it doesn't have that asbestos-like quality that you are describing, getting into clothes and staying there through weeks and multiple washes.


"Yes, Gingerbaker, restricting a habit that people CHOOSE to take up is totally the same thing as banning people from apartment complexes because of the race they were born with. Completely the same. No differences at all."

LOL. Like that's the issue here.

By Gingerbaker (not verified) on 12 Nov 2010 #permalink

I have to take issue here. I am a smoker, cigarettes that is, but often I smoke just to annoy the hell out of people. I know it is stupid, childish and immature, and I will probably regret it when I get emphysema. But our culture is so puritanical. I had German friends, and I never got the same attitude from their part. I have the same experience with most foreigners; to them smoking is not a moral issue as long as I donât blow it in their face. Here in America is almost like a religious tenant. Libertarians would smoke in the classroom if they had it their way. Others would ban it everywhere. I think it goes beyond health issues. Hatred for smoking has become a fad just as smoking once was. Itâs a crowded world, we better start learning to live with each others noises and smells, otherwise no body is happy.

Yes, it stinks. Cigarette smokers in the last century liked to claim that there was no need to regulate where they could smoke, because they would just naturally avoid offending anyone. It was a load of %@()$#!^. If marijuana is legalized, it should be with very strict limits on where it can be smoked -- and a clear prohibition against driving under the influence.

I annoyed several smokers back in the 70's by declaring my wedding a non-smoking event. Just imagine, that was considered offensive behavior! And stinking up a non-smoker's house was just normal.

Marijuana smokers don't belong in prison, but it needs to be clear that their stinky habit has no place in apartment buildings, cars, or public spaces.

I would like to agree with you, but banning smoking in apartment buildings runs into conflict with an individual's right to do what he/she wants in their own home. If you live in the city, you have to put up with a lot of behaviors that wouldn't be problems in a condition of lower population density. Where do you draw the lines? I could smoke pot or tobacco on my porch to keep the indoor air clear, but a neighbor could possibly smell and be offended by the odor. Personally, I am irritated by the smell of some laundry products. Can I insist the other people in my building refrain from using them in the shared washer and drier?

Refrain? People who use scented dryer sheets should be sent to work camps. I can detect that stench from half a block away.

By Narad, the Man… (not verified) on 12 Nov 2010 #permalink

Wow...I don't have an answer but love the discussion. I too have a sensitive sense of smell and can relate all-too-well to the sickening smell of dryer sheets, over-perfumed people, scented cleaners, the nearby factory, inconsiderate smokers, etc.. But when city-folks need a new landfill or sewer plant do they put it near the people making the stink? No, the stench and pests are foisted on rural-folks without the political clout to stop it. Maybe the answer lies there...without the political clout to stop it...deal with it because majority rules the world of smells also? Maybe the answer is for some smart person to revolutionize odor-control technology? There does not seem to be a right or wrong, merely a question of where to draw a line.

You know what really smells bad? Prisons.

In the U.S., we have over two million prisoners. The vast majority of them are blacks and other minorities. The majority of prisoners are there on drug charges, and the majority of drug charges have to do with marijuana.


Mike, the Mad Biologist, I really like your blog, read it regularly, and appreciate your efforts.

But you have *really* missed the mark with this post of yours. We have many hundreds of thousands of minority folks rotting in prison on marijuana charges, but you won't vote for legalization because you might get an occasional whiff of a neighbors joint?

Do you see how unbelievably crass and selfish your thought process was in this post?

Decide to enjoy the aroma of pot - hopefully some day it will smell like social justice.

By Gingerbaker (not verified) on 14 Nov 2010 #permalink

"Just because horse occationally poopoo on the street is no reason to ban horses."

It's an excellent reason to ban horses. Isn't horse popoo a vector for cholera? People that complain about automobile smog should try living back when everything was horse-drawn.

Marijuana smoke is at least as offensive as heavy metal music played loud.

By Paul Murray (not verified) on 14 Nov 2010 #permalink

gingerbaker(no 16) wrote "In the U.S., we have over two million prisoners". Step forward one major anti-legalisation lobby; the prison industry.

The USA incarcerates far too many people for trifling offences. Decriminalise drugs, set quality standards and tax the bloody things, and watch your budget deficit and prison population both shrink.

It was a nice fantasy, was it not? HELLO! This has already happened in Portugal. They have decriminalised ALL drugs (for personal use). There is NO war on drugs there, just a public health issue. This change was made with the enthusiastic support of the Portuguese police.

However, this would involve the USA learning from other countries, and how can "The Greatest Country on Earth" have anything to learn from anywhere else? American exceptionalism is sometimes like wearing a pair of blinders as well as pink spectacles.