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Good Joints Make Good Neighbors

As a board member, I got lots of complaints about smoking, but never a single one about hash.  I figured it was a non-issue. Shows how much I know.  It’s almost embarrassing to admit.  I’m probably the only person I know who never smoked a joint.  I guess I’m too up tight to just let go.

Whenever I visited my friend a few floors below, I smelled this pungently sweet aroma wafting from the apartment across the hall.  “What are they cooking in there?” I finally asked my friend. “Are you kidding?” she looked at me like I was brain dead. “It’s pot.  Wish I had some.”

Just a few days ago someone else nabbed me. “Mr. and Mrs. X are smoking so much stuff my apartment wreaks,” he confided almost jealously. “I can’t have my kids smelling it,” though I was pretty sure his kids wouldn’t know what it was they were smelling anymore than I did. “I rang their doorbell and even though I could see they were stoned, they said it was the woman next door.  So I rang her bell, but she said it wasn’t her.”

I didn’t say anything about his breaking the unwritten Do Not Disturb Rule in High Rise Society, but you can be sure if someone came unannounced and rang my bell demanding to know if I were a law breaking pothead, I wouldn’t be so neighborly

“Did you hear about Mr. and Mrs. X?” I asked when I bumped into another friend in the building.

“So-o-o?” she didn’t seem the least surprised.  “When I went to ask Ms. Y to sign that petition I couldn’t even go into her place the stuff was so dense. But she was in such a good mood she signed the thing without looking, even though I’m sure she was against everything in it.  I almost asked her for a hit, then I remembered my son was coming home from college so I could bum a joint from him.”

OK, I’m slow, but I finally realized it wasn’t that no one was smoking, it was that everyone was. (Well maybe not everyone, I was still a marijuana virgin) But enough people that no one was gonna rat on anyone else cause they didn’t want anyone to rat on them — a self protective conspiracy of silence in High Rise Society as effective as those under the old Soviet regime.

That doesn’t mean some uptight party pooper (no, not me) won’t break the silence and demand action from their board And thanks to those activist opponents of secondhand smoke, they have several ways to go. (See Snuffed Out.) If you live in co-op you can say your Warranty of Habitability is being breached.  If you own a condo, you have a possible claim for nuisance. Depending upon how bad the situation is, you may even be able to say the pothead is objectionable (see, How Bad Do You Have To Be), which is probably a harder way to go because it may require residents to vote to evict a fellow marijuana lover, not something they’re likely to do.

One unit owner complained that the stench of illegal marijuana from her neighbor rose to the level of a nuisance. Only the board said, and the court agreed, that the owner failed to produce any proof from fellow neighbors disturbed by the odor. It’s not for us to regulate private conduct behind closed doors, the board members said (making you wonder what they were doing behind their doors).If you want action, go to the authorities they told her.

 Except that’s really a cop-out. Do you honestly think the police are going to come running just because you say your neighbor is high, especially now that there are allegations that the statistics about real crimes are being manipulated? And even if they do, the way the law works (RPL 231 and RPAPL 715) you can’t be kicked out just for recreational pot smoking. They have to prove your apartment is being used to peddle the stuff to others. And if New York goes the way of California, and now New Jersey, marijuana may soon be legal for medicinal purposes, so all you have to do is get a prescription – which no doubt will put a whole new slant on the situation.

For more details on going after potheads, here are a few cases to look at:

  • D’Emilia v. Sandra Greer R.E.Management Corp., 2007 NY Slip Op.32435(U), July 1, 2007, Sup. Ct. N.Y. Co.
  • NYC Housing Authority v. Lipscomb-Arroyo, 2008 NY Slip Op. 51085(U), June 2, 2008, Civ. Ct. N.Y. Co.
  • 855-79 LLC v. Salas, 2007 NY Slip Op. 04581, May 31, 2007, App. Div. 1st Dept.

To access these cases: go to Search NY Slip Decisions, then under Search By Citation, enter the year and number of the desired case.

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