I lived in a safe suburb of the Denver Metro Area in Colorado for more than 30 years. In 2014, I noticed that I could rarely go outside my home without inhaling pot smoke. I detected intense pot smoke from 4 of my 5 adjacent neighbors. All had lived there for many years prior to 2013, and no pot smell was detected before recreational pot became legal.
The pot smoke was a daily occurrence from 2 of the neighbors. Pot smoke could be outside my door any hour of the day or night. The neighbors did not appear to smoke it outside per the law – the smoke was likely coming from an open window, doorway, or garage. I talked to the neighbors about the smoke, they denied it, and I was concerned that further conversations would exacerbate the problem.
I emailed dozens of Colorado state legislators and heard back from 3 or 4. I emailed the governor’s office and received a response that led me to believe there was gray market activity in my area. Nothing significant came from my efforts, other than a slight reduction in smoke intensity.
There were times when the pot smoke made me slightly dizzy. I purchased R95 masks so that I could work in the yard. These paint fume masks were the only masks that prevented the pot smell and THC from entering my body as they sealed well, but they were difficult to breathe in.
I would walk my dog, and a car would drive slowly down the street. When it passed by, I got a hit. My balance would be off for a couple of minutes afterward. It was rare that I could walk my dog through my suburban neighborhood and not smell pot at all. The wind would take the smoke through open garages where people smoked and down the street for as far as a block.
I felt violated every time I was forced to breathe pot smoke. Honestly, it felt like no one else cared. Maybe they still don’t. But I do. Pot smoke is intoxicating, and no one should be drugged without their consent. I became fearful of going outside. While I was not suicidal, I was ready for my life to be over. I had lost control over my sobriety when outside, and there were times the pot smell crept inside my house even though no windows were open.
After more than 30 years living in my Colorado dream home with a view, and fighting pot legislatively for 3 years, I allowed my neighbors to smoke me out, and I sold the house.
I moved to a state where recreational pot is not yet legal. I purchased a rural property with hopefully enough land that I would not be able to detect neighbors smoking pot. There are a lot of insects, but I would choose bugs over pot smoke any day. There is no reliable internet other than a mobile hotspot. Because of that, it is unlikely that I could get a telecommuting job, and there are no large cities close by. And yet, I feel much safer here than in my former home, because I can go outside and breathe clean air.
Marijuana isn’t going to go away. My hope is that the emissions (intoxicating smoke and vapor) will go away and that it will be regulated enough (through filters, technology, and legislation) so that it does not affect those who choose not to use it. And for the children, my hope is that the community will be educated and smart enough to think for themselves, and not be pulled into any behavior or addiction through weakness, fear, or desire to belong.