There’s a dirty little secret about legalized marijuana, one that could become an issue in neighbourhoods across the country.
Well, maybe it would be better to describe it as a stinky little secret, but one that’s likely to become very familiar — and maybe too familiar.
Weed, both smoked and unsmoked, is more pungent than it once was. It’s gone through decades of horticultural experimentation to strengthen its kick. And there’s likely to be a lot more of that pungent to go around once smoking a joint isn’t a criminal offence anymore.
I left work in the industrial park where my office is on Tuesday, heading out into the evening dark on foot on a mostly windless day. I hadn’t gone any more than 60 feet when I caught the smell of weed on the slight wind. Looking around, I spotted the source (not hard, because of the shortage of passers-by). The gentleman enjoying his joint was across the street and a full parking lot away from me — far enough that I would have been unable to pick him out of a crowd by his facial features, but close enough that I could identify what he was smoking.
Five blocks later, turning onto a suburban sidestreet, I caught it again: this time, two guys in the front seat of a tradesman’s pickup, complete with signage, the windows grey with captured smoke that trickled out from where the window was cracked open just a finger’s width.
Now, I’m no bloodhound: clearly, there’s plenty of weed around, being smoked relatively openly already.
Venting your tiny basement grow-op into the space between your house and the neighbour’s might not be welcomed next door, even if everything’s legal.
Right now, though, weed’s illegal. Once possession isn’t illegal under the criminal code, it’s hard to believe that people won’t be even more willing to have a summer toke on their decks or walking down the street. Sure, they might be facing a ticket under provincial legislation, but it won’t be a criminal case.
Having visited Denver — where weed sales are legal but public consumption can get you the same kind of ticket as open liquor in public — I can say that the smell of weed on the open air is almost as common as the smell of bread next to a bakery; it happens, and what you get depends on the wind direction. Colorado is still struggling over just how to define what sorts of places are legal for smoking, though outside on your deck is apparently private enough to be allowed. Weed enthusiasts there basically suggest that you don’t run other people’s noses in your smoke.
Think about this: a whole generation has been trained out of indoor cigarette smoking, both in bars (where it was banned) and at home; many of the remaining cigarette smokers don’t want their homes smelling of cigarette smoke. Some insurance companies offer breaks to homeowners who don’t allow inside smoking — I imagine weed smoking would fall under that same umbrella.
It doesn’t even have to be smoked.
Many people may opt for vaporizer or edibles to deliver their marijuana kick, and that may tone down the fugitive smoke. But still others will take advantage of the ability to grow marijuana plants, meaning a whole different neighbourhood presence.
Growing weed — and even unsmoked bud, in any amount — can be pretty skunky-smelling. Venting your tiny basement grow-op into the space between your house and the neighbour’s might not be welcomed next door, even if everything’s legal.
And if your neighbours are going through any great quantity on their summer deck, it could well affect your enjoyment of your own property — unless you’re joining in.
Heck, cities started banning outdoor fireplaces once the complaints started rolling in.
Simply put, last year’s crime may be next year’s nuisance. And even nuisances have to be dealt with.