Holding a white paper bag with freshly purchased cannabis flower, Keith Smothers was among the people on a recent Wednesday afternoon trickling in and out of Cookies, a cannabis dispensary in the heart of Federal Hill.
His plan for the night: smoke. In his own house in Anne Arundel County, where since July 1, cannabis became legal for Marylanders 21 and older.
But people can’t just smoke it anywhere, including public places like streets, sidewalks, parks, bars and public transit.
Smothers, 37, pretty much follows the law to the T and said he only smokes inside his house to be respectful of his neighbors who may be offended by the smell of cannabis smoke.
People like Smothers are navigating through the niceties of using cannabis in this new legal world. While some people don’t mind the smell of cannabis smoke, others — not so much.
While stigma surrounding cannabis is fading as more people partake, there are already signs it could be ramping up to be the next neighborhood dispute, like double parking or being the only house on the block with unsightly weeds.
Just look at the case in Washington, D.C., where a woman become so fed up with the distinct smell coming from her duplex neighbor she successfully sued them, arguing that the smell was a private nuisance, The Washington Post reported.
The woman’s neighbor is now banned from smoking in the duplex and within 25 feet of the woman’s address.
Years before the D.C. lawsuit, Lizzie Post, the great-great-granddaughter of 20th century etiquette queen Emily Post, wrote a guidebook specifically addressing cannabis use.
Post said as states have legalized recreational cannabis — it’s still illegal federally — the conversation around the substance is changing as it has affected millions of people, whether they consume cannabis or not.
She said the best way for people to be good ambassadors for legalized cannabis is “by doing your best to play within the rules that are set … And to really try and lobby for and encourage education around the products themselves so that people don’t have fear over all of a sudden being drugged from their next door neighbor’s wafting exhale.”
Hence, her 2019 book, “Higher Etiquette,” in which Post walks readers through cannabis products, how to behave at a dispensary and even how to respectfully use cannabis — and then tying it into education and etiquette.
Her book also gives tips to people who do not want to partake, she said. She tells readers how to decline using cannabis and how to tell guests they have a dry home and don’t want any substances brought to their dinner party.
“Weed etiquette is really all of the different ways that our behavior is impacted around the subject of cannabis,” Post said.
Post said most people might be more familiar with cannabis etiquette than they expect.
This includes how the cannabis-using community interacts with one another, such as sharing cannabis, spending time together when high and sharing knowledge about cannabis.
“I think it’s worth being aware of your surroundings,” Post said. “Etiquette is really about awareness of others and how we might impact them.”
Technically, cannabis smells shouldn’t be looming just anywhere outside or in malls and buildings, said Sam Mauzy, assistant manager of Cookies.
Other than their homes, the only other place people can also smoke is cannabis lounges, which are almost like bars for cannabis, in which patrons pay a fee to enter. But there are no more lounges in Maryland after the first and only one in Burtonsville called Ceylon House closed July 1. There are plans to reopen, but the timing is unclear, according to the lounge’s Instagram.
Post said in her own life, she smokes cannabis in her private backyard, and her neighbor smokes cigarettes in his private backyard. Throughout the summer, Post said there were plenty of times her neighbor’s cigarette smoke — which she is sensitive to — would seep into her yard. Rather than asking her neighbor on the spot to not smoke, she would go inside, or find a new area to work in.
“I work around it because it’s not my place to dictate how he enjoys his habit in his backyard,” Post said.
If she were having a dinner party outside and the smoke was disrupting the guests, Post said she would ask her neighbor in a kind manner if they could smoke inside while her guests are over.
“But I’m not going to push hard to control every single time he lights up in his backyard because part of what I would also want is someone to respect my own enjoyment,” Post said. “I want that in reciprocation, and you can’t always guarantee that someone’s going to reciprocate with that kind of kindness, but I think that it’s a choice.”
Even if someone lives in their own place in a rowhome, apartment or even a house they rent, smoking could be off limits. It depends on what the landlord or property manager decides.
The same goes for hotels and vacation rentals such as Airbnb or VRBO — just ask the front desk in hotels and the rental’s property managers what they allow in terms of cannabis use — just as you would cigarette smoking.
As the owner and landlord of 15 rowhomes in Upper Fells Point and Canton, Jill Wootten said she doesn’t have a concern with cannabis smoke because it dissipates quickly.
“I draw a very thick line between cigarette smoking and marijuana, because cigarettes can damage property and it stains walls and the smell lingers,” Wootten said.
In her properties she does not allow cigarette smoking, and ultimately, she said she tries to rent to people who do not smoke anything at all.
Wooten has been a landlord for 10 years and has never had an issue with her tenants’ next door neighbors – who are steps away because they live in rowhomes – complaining about cannabis smoke even when it was not legal, she said. In the two and a half months since the state legalized cannabis, she said nothing has changed with her properties and no tenants have reached out to her about the smoking policy.
A couple who lives in Canton, Jody and Doug Sandhaus, said since cannabis was legalized, they have not noticed more people on their block smoking — mostly, they said, because they seem to be the only people who do smoke on their block.
Doug, 62, said he’s been smoking before it was legal recreationally because he has a medical card. He’s only noticed a difference in how crowded dispensaries are compared to when he would typically be the only one at them prior to July 1.
Now that it’s legal recreationally, Doug and Jody go to dispensaries together. No one has said anything to them about smelling smoke, but probably because they are being respectful to the oldest couple on their block, Jody, 62, said.
But if their next door neighbors were fed up with the cannabis smell, they could call the police and the officer would have to respond to the call to clear it, Baltimore Police Detective Vernon Davis said.
This means that the officer would still check to see if the cannabis user was selling or purchasing illegal drugs, Davis said. Otherwise, the police can’t do anything when it comes to complaints about cannabis.
Before calling the police, Post said she would kindly talk to her neighbor about the smoke smells if they are bothersome.
To be respectful if your neighbors do not like the smell, and to even avoid potentially getting sued by tenants in neighboring buildings, users can consume cannabis in ways other than smoking, said Mauzy, the assistant manager of Cookies, the Federal Hill dispensary.
So if you live in close quarters, like a duplex, rowhome or condo, and want that high feeling but don’t want to disrupt your neighbor, you could take an edible, use tinctures, topicals or vapes, all of which Cookies sells, Mauzy said.
Edibles are exactly what they sound like: delicious cookie bites of all flavors, classic brownie bites, gummies and even drink mixes such as lemonade and fruit punch. Tinctures are alcohol-based liquid or oils that placed under the tongue go straight into the bloodstream. Topicals are cannabis-infused lotions, rubs, and patches — and all avoid the risk of cannabis smoke seeping through your neighbors’ doors.
But if someone prefers to inhale, Mauzy said to try using a concentrate vape, which produce less smoke and come in almost any fruity flavor one might crave. Alternatively, users can enjoy dry herb vapes, in which the flower is just heated up, making them safer to consume and overall much less smelly than smoking out of a pipe or using a concentrate vape.
Because Smothers owns his home, he sticks to smoking. But he said he hasn’t noticed too much of a difference in where he sees people smoking since legalization. Except for one place.
“I coach football, and I can smell it [cannabis smoke] at football practice when I coach my son,” Smothers said. “So I smell it there just because the parents are in the parking lot and they’re smoking it. But it’s nothing that’s outside of the norm because I guess it’s always been done.”
The cannabis smell doesn’t bother him, unlike cigarette smoke, he said, but he still prefers to smoke in his home just to be mindful of the people around him.