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Can I get in trouble for smoking weed in a NYC rental apartment?

Check your building’s house rules to see what your building's smoking policy allows. Even if you can smoke marijuana in your apartment, you still need to keep your neighbors' health and well-being in mind.

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Question:

I’m a renter in a building that allows smoking. Can I get in trouble for smoking weed?

Answer:

All multi-family residential buildings are now required to establish a smoking policy, so that's where you want to check first to see whether or not you can smoke marijuana inside your apartment. 

When a building creates its smoking policy, it outlines what type of smoke is prohibited in addition to tobacco, says Sam Himmelstein, a lawyer who represents residential and commercial tenants and tenant associations (and is a Brick Underground sponsor). So check your building’s house rules to see what your building's smoking policy allows.

The law requiring apartment buildings to create a smoking policy went into effect in August 2018, so if you live in a rent-regulated apartment, and moved in before the policy was enacted, it doesn’t pertain to you. 

But even if you can smoke marijuana in your apartment, you still need to keep your neighbors' health and well-being in mind.

“If the smell becomes strong enough to penetrate another apartment, it can become a nuisance to your neighbors and be considered an objectionable odor,” says Himmelstein. Objectionable odors can be prohibited by your lease, which could lead to eviction if the problem persists.

Part of the problem can be a building's own ventilation system and hallways.

“The issue with people smoking marijuana in their apartments is that it gives off such a strong smell that it gets into the vents and into the hallways, which eventually impacts the right to quiet enjoyment of other people living in the building,” says Peter von Simson, CEO of New Bedford Management Corp., a NYC property management company. 

If your building has a firm no smoking policy, you should strictly adhere to the building rules to avoid repercussions from your management. “I have seen tenants who violate the no smoking policy get in trouble and if they refuse to stop, even get evicted,” says von Simson. 

If you’re in the state’s medical marijuana program, you could be exempt from your building's smoking policy. “If it’s been prescribed by a doctor, they would have a disability defense and be entitled to reasonable accommodation by the building,” says Himmelstein.

Smoking marijuana is still not legal in New York, however the state expanded the decriminalization of marijuana in 2019, so if you’re caught in public smoking or in possession of a small amount, you’re only facing a violation with a small fine.

Practical ways to smoke without bothering your neighbors 

If you don’t plan on giving up the herb, or have a medical marijuana license, there are many ways for you to smoke without making your building smell like a college dorm.

Vaporizers produce an odorless vapor instead of a pungent smoke, which can saturate your apartment—and your neighbor’s. But, keep in mind that your building’s smoking policy may prohibit vaporizers. And, if even it doesn’t, they are still banned in the halls and common areas. 

If you prefer to smoke the traditional way, think about buying a personal air-filter product, where you blow the smoke into the device and it filters out the smell, like the Smoke Buddy or Smoke Trap. You can also use air sprays and sanitizers like Ozium, which eliminate smoke smells.

And, there’s always edibles like brownies and gummies.