Judge orders DC man to stop smoking medical weed at home after neighbor sues over smell

Medical marijuana can help a patient deal with pain — but a D.C. judge has ruled the smell of pot burning has become a pain in the neck for a woman who lives next door.

Josefa Ippolito-Shepherd lives in a Cleveland Park duplex that shares a wall with a home owned by Angella Farserotu. Thomas Cackett has lived in a ground-level apartment in Farserotu’s building since 2005.

In 2020, Ippolito-Shepherd sued her neighbors, claiming Cackett smoked medical marijuana around the clock, and the smell invaded her home caused a nuisance, and made her physically sick.

In D.C. Superior Court, Cackett testified he smokes medical marijuana two or three minutes per day, taking less than a dozen puffs, at night, when he gets home from work, to help him sleep.

Cackett said he smokes outside on his patio to abide by the no-smoking clause in his lease, although his landlord, Farserotu, allows him to smoke indoors during inclement weather.

Ippolito-Shepherd’s suit claimed Cackett’s marijuana smoke caused her sleeplessness, stomach pains, nausea, and vomiting, and his landlord “has known about the intoxicating fumes escaping from her home since July 26, 2019,” but has not done anything to mitigate the issue.

On Monday, Judge Ebony Scott ruled while Cackett has the right to buy medical marijuana, he doesn’t have the right to infringe on his neighbor’s right to fully enjoy her home.

“Defendants consumption of marijuana both inside and outside of his residence has deprived the Plaintiff of the full use and enjoyment of her property, thereby creating a nuisance for which Plaintiff should no longer be forced to endure,” wrote Scott.

The judge banned Cackett, or anyone who visits his home, from smoking or burning marijuana in any way that emits an odor on his property, or within 25 feet of Ippolito-Shepherd’s home.

Judge Scott stopped short of awarding damages to Ippolito-Shepherd, saying she failed to provide medical evidence that marijuana smoke was specifically responsible for her feeling sick.

The case could prompt other legal challenges in the District, where smoking marijuana in public is banned.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

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