Neighbourhood Weed Wars: Man Barred By Court From Smoking Over Smell

by | Jun 9, 2023 | Cannabis Legislation, Marijuana Insights | 0 comments

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A Washington, D.C. judge prohibited a man from smoking medical marijuana in his home after a neighbor sued, claiming the fragrance wafted into her home and made her ill. The lawsuit resulted in a three-year legal struggle.

Although Thomas Cackett has a license to buy medicinal marijuana, Judge Ebony Scott decided this week that “he does not possess a license to disrupt the full use and enjoyment of one’s land, nor does his license usurp this long-established right.”

According to court records, Josefa Ippolito-Shepherd sued Cackett and her neighbor Angella Farserotu, who owns the neighboring duplex, in 2020. Cackett resides in the ground level apartment. In her lawsuit, Ippolito-Shepherd claimed that Cackett “smoke[s] marijuana 24/7” and that the odor from Cackett’s use “enters and permeates (her) home, making her violently sick.”

Ippolito-Shepherd’s lawsuit was dismissed in 2021 when a court determined that she “failed to state a claim on the sole ground that smoking marijuana in one’s home is legal in the District of Columbia and therefore cannot constitute an actionable nuisance.” But after that dismissal was overturned by an appeals court, the matter was revisited last year.

Ippolito-Shepherd, a public health expert, later testified in court in D.C. that each time Cackett smoked, she quickly developed respiratory problems, terrible headaches, nausea, and vomiting. Ippolito-Shepherd told USA TODAY that she complained to Cackett and Farserotu about the smell in 2018 and 2019 and that they both confirmed that her tenant had been using marijuana at the time.

The battle has now started, Ippolito-Shepherd stated.

According to court records, Ippolito-Shepherd emailed the defendants more than 200 times, pleading with Cackett not to smoke marijuana there.

A restaurant manager by the name of Cackett stated that he used medical marijuana two to three times daily to help him sleep and relieve discomfort brought on by numerous health issues. In order to comply with a no-smoking provision in his lease, he claimed to the court that he smokes outside on the patio; but, when the weather is poor, Farserotu permits him to do so inside. An inquiry for comment from USA TODAY did not receive a prompt response from Cackett.

Scott found that Cackett had caused a nuisance, but he refrained from awarding Ippolito-Shepherd damages because she had not shown any documentation from a doctor demonstrating that the marijuana smoke had caused her illness. Scott prohibited Cackett from smoking or burning marijuana in any way that generates an odor at his residence or within 25 feet of Ippolito-Shepherd’s residence, as well as anybody else who visits him.

Despite the “horrible” smell, Ippolito-Shepherd said her main worry is the chemicals in the smoke. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that although secondhand marijuana smoke contains many of the same dangerous and cancer-causing compounds as tobacco smoke, some of which are present in higher concentrations, more research is necessary to determine the consequences.

“Because I work in public health, I am aware of the risks to my lungs, my family, and myself, especially the elderly and young children. They are the two most at risk populations, she claimed. “Therefore, I am very worried.”

She claimed she has received communications from numerous other people in same circumstances since filing her case. Ippolito-Shepherd emphasized that although she favors decriminalizing marijuana, she hopes to lobby for legislative changes that would enable others to settle comparable disputes without resorting to the legal system.

“Judge Scott’s decision is for the public health,” she declared. It’s a significant victory since now others can use it to support their arguments.

Ippolito-Shepherd’s case has “persuasive value,” according to J.P. Szymkowicz, a lawyer who is defending neighbors in a related case, rather than creating a legal precedent like an appellate ruling would.

Ippolito-Shepherd said she intends to have her house completely cleaned now that the court case is over and hopes the accused will abide by the judge’s judgment.


Enrico Bratta

Enrico Bratta

Medical cannabis professional based in Phuket, Thailand.


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Enrico Bratta

Medical cannabis professional based in Phuket, Thailand.