Pot is legal in some states — but the neighbors don't have to like it.
Marijuana and hemp have joined wacky paint colors and unsightly fences as causes of common neighborhood disputes facing homeowners associations. Though a few HOAs have willingly changed their rules to accommodate for legal marijuana use or home growing, many more are banning home pot smoking.
HOAs can't ban members from using pot in their homes when it's legal. But if the neighbors can see or smell weed, the law is clear — HOAs have every right to regulate the drug as a nuisance, or a threat to children along the lines of a swimming pool with no fence.
"The fact that people may be legally entitled to smoke doesn't mean they can do it wherever they want, any more than they could walk into a restaurant and light up a cigarette," said Richard Thompson, who owns a management consulting company that specializes in condominium and homeowners associations.
Thompson said his home condo development in Portland, Ore., offers a prime example of how marijuana's growing acceptance has sparked neighbor conflicts.
"As soon as spring and summer come around, we hear complaints about marijuana smoke because people are out on their patios and they have the windows down," he said.
It's not clear how many HOAs have confronted marijuana conflicts in the 23 states with some form of legal marijuana. But lawyers who specialize in HOA disputes, as well as a Colorado regulatory agency that advises HOAs, say there are more and more conflicts among neighbors who want to smoke pot and others who don't want to see it or smell it.
"What we're really seeing more now is regulating the associations' common areas" for issues such as smoke wafting onto playgrounds or others' porches, said Erin McManis, an attorney in Phoenix whose firm represents hundreds of Arizona HOAs.
Smoke isn't the only neighbor complaint sparked by loosening marijuana laws. The growing of pot and hemp is prompting neighbor disputes, too.
A suburban Denver retiree, Jim Denny, had planned to grow marijuana's nonintoxicating cousin, hemp, in his yard, but his HOA ruled it unacceptable.
"I explained to them that hemp is not marijuana, but they were dead-set against it," he said.