The Etiquette of Weed Pt. 3: A Rebuttal

I'm sorry this is your neighbor

I’m sorry this is your neighbor

Last week, author Jennifer Garam’s XO Jane article, I Don’t Want to Smell Your Pot Smoke and I Don’t Think It Should Be Legalized, was picked up by Time Magazine. Obviously the title is a bit sensational, but I expected to be a bit more sympathetic than your average Millennial. As someone who doesn’t smoke pot, I can relate to a lot of Garam’s complaints: the constant pressure to do it because it’s “cool,” the frustration of being the only not-high person in a room, and most of all the smell. The smell of pot is something that’s always bothered me, and the prospect of legalization and the increase in that smell being acceptable gives me a minor panic attack.

However, the crux of Garam’s complaints is really an issue of etiquette, not of legalization.

Garam illustrates her complaint with her downstairs neighbor, an apparently avid pot smoker.  She explains, “I live in an old building with cracks and crevices so there were a lot of places for the smoke to seep through. It smelled like it was coming up through the radiator, through the crack between the floorboards and the wall at the head of my bed, by the kitchen, and in the closet. Also, I live on the top floor, so the smoke would float up to my apartment and get trapped there with nowhere further to go.” She complained to her landlord (though seemingly not to her neighbor) to middling success, and received no relief until her neighbor moved out.

We’ve discussed both pot smoking etiquette and apartment etiquette here, and this issue lives at that intersection. I’ve lived in apartment buildings my whole life, and I’ve been subject to pot smoking neighbors, but also cigarette and cigar smoking neighbors, and none of these are pleasant.  For two years my pantry (which shared a wall with another apartment) smelled like cigarettes, and when I was a kid my neighbor down the hall smoked so many cigars I swear the lobby was hazy. I’ve never particularly minded cooking smells, but if someone hasn’t taken out their garbage for weeks, believe me the whole building knows. Even if you’re a smoker (of anything), it’s not a stretch to understand that not everybody is okay with, or can handle, the smell of your smoke.

This is all to say that if you live in an apartment building, you have to come to terms with your space not being entirely your own, and that goes both ways. If you’re going to smoke pot, you have to do everything in your power to contain the smell to your own apartment (smoke through a vaporizer, with lots of windows open, or with one of those things with a dryer sheet tied to the end of a paper towel roll). If you are bothered by the smell or smoke from your neighbors, ask them yourself first instead of running through your landlord. Make it clear that their actions are directly affecting you. It’s easy enough to shut the door to our apartments and forget that the outside world exists, and yes I’m all for having sex as loudly as you want, but if you’re going to live in an apartment, you have to remember there are people on the other side of that wall.

Issues like these are good reminders that we are never entirely alone. Whether you lived in a crowded apartment building or in an open field, miles from your neighbor, your actions and decisions affect others. It seems inevitable that pot will be legalized in the US, and despite the issues that will arise (can we talk about how black people bore the brunt of pot arrests and white people are most likely to reap the benefits of legalization?), it will probably be a good thing. We still deal with the issues of alcohol being legal, but you’d be hard pressed to find many advocating for a complete return to prohibition. So no, having an annoying pothead neighbor does not mean pot shouldn’t be legal. I’m sure this woman has had many a pothead neighbor who’ve been able to keep their habits to themselves, and thus she’s never known about it. What it does mean is that we’ll all need to rethink our habits and adjust them accordingly, so that nobody is forcing their hobby on an unsuspecting tenant.

How to Be a Considerate Urban Dweller

We firmly believe that city dwellers can be some of the nicest, most polite people out there. After all, you are forced to be in close quarters with hundreds of people every day. You need to learn to read social cues and put others needs above your own. And yes, we all dream of retreating to a ranch in the middle of nowhere where we don’t have to talk to anyone or remember to be nice to the deli guy and we can walk however slowly we want on the sidewalk, but humans are social creatures, and nowhere represents this better than our bustling cities.

That being said, city living doesn’t come naturally to everyone, so here are a few tips on how to handle yourself if you suddenly find yourself in an apartment building in the middle of a metropolis. (Public transportation is a whole conversation unto itself, so we will cover that in depth later!)

  • Remember that there are people around you! Avoid very loud conversations in person or on your phone. Also be aware of music leakage. Even if you’re using headphones, loud music can definitely be heard by those around you. (Also, please use headphones. Do not be that person who is just watching music videos on their phone OUT LOUD.)

  • Sidewalks are the city’s highway, so treat walking as though you were driving. “Pull over” if you need to stop for any reason, don’t just stop dead in the middle of the flow of traffic, especially if you are a group of people. If you are walking and texting, you are NOT walking as fast as you normally do. Try to move out of peoples way. Also, like on roads, keep to the right (or left if you’re in Europe I guess?), especially on stairs, so traffic can flow both ways.

  • Don’t block things! Don’t stop in doorways or at the top, bottom, or middle of subway stairs.

  • Don’t walk three abreast (or more, jeez!) down the sidewalk!

  • Be mindful of your downstairs neighbors and don’t clomp around on your hardwood floors or play very loud music all of the time. On the flip side, be aware that you are living in very close quarters and don’t be too hard on your neighbors unless it is very intrusive and persistent.

  • Be mindful of jaywalking. If you can see cars aren’t coming for a while, then it’s probably safe, but don’t run into the middle of the street if you see someone coming.

  • If you are on a bike, remember you are still a vehicle and obey all traffic laws. No riding against traffic, no running red lights, no biking on the sidewalk.

  • Telling neighbors to quiet down: Doing it in person the first time is probably best, or if you can’t, leave a friendly note. However, I’ve been known to resort to/respond to a few bangs on the ceiling or floor with a broom handle. It’s quick, unobtrusive, and everyone knows what it means.

  • For gods sake pick up your dog poop! There is no excuse not to do this.