Woman Wins Case Claiming Neighbors’ Cannabis Odor Creates A Private Nuisance

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A woman residing in Washington, D.C. sued her neighbor, claiming that their cannabis odor was a nuisance and affected her health.

In Washington, D.C. Judge Ebony Scott ruled in favor of the plaintiff 76-year-old, Josefa Ippolito-Shepherd, who sued her neighbor because of the smell of cannabis. Ippolito-Shepherd has lived in her neighborhood for 30 years, claimed that the odor of cannabis was taking a toll on her health, mentioning that it was affecting her everyday life and sleep (1).

At first, Ippolito-Shepherd had tried asking her neighbor, Thomas Cackett, to stop smoking cannabis inside the apartment. Her next move was to reach out to the landlord and see if he could be evicted but that option didn’t work out. As her last resort, she filed a lawsuit and Judge Ebony Scott decided in her favor.

Circumstances caused from the ruling of the lawsuit state that Cackett must stop using cannabis inside their apartment. Ippolito-Shepherd was not entitled to damaged but opened the door to the odor of cannabis being considered a private nuisance.


“Indeed, the public interest is best served by eliminating the smoking nuisance and the toxins that it deposits into the air, toxins that involuntary smokers have no choice but to inhale,” Scott wrote in her decision (1). As part of the ruling, Cackett must stop smoking indoors due to the fact that he “does not possess a license to disrupt the full use and enjoyment of one’s land,” (1). He also is not allowed to smoke cannabis within 25 ft of Ippolito-Shepherd’s address despite having a license to buy cannabis.

Benzinga (1) claims that this ruling is the first of its kind and has the ability to lead to more legal actions, perhaps serving as inspiration to future lawsuits.

Cackett told the court that he uses medical cannabis as a medicine to help his pain and sleep easier. He argued that he doesn’t smoke (1) “all day and all night as the plaintiff alleges. I am not Snoop Dogg,” telling the court that he only used 8-12 puffs typically outside if the weather permits.

Ippolito-Shepherd has been pleased with the outcome of the trial, ““It’s a big win from the public health perspective because it’s setting a precedent for all the people that are in similar situations,” (1). This poses the question “does cannabis smoke pose a health risk?” and if it does, what can be done about it? State Coordinator of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) California chapter, Dale Gieringer, and deputy director of NORML, Paul Armentano, believe that “long-term exposure to cannabis smoke has not been connected with serious respiratory issues as scientists have seen with tobacco smoke,” (1).

One very important thing to mention is that because of the federal status of cannabis, the plant has not been able to have many research studies on it to analyze long-term secondhand cannabis smoke exposure. Epidemiologist of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Brooke Hoots, mentioned that “secondhand marijuana smoke contains the same cancer-causing toxins as secondhand tobacco smoke,” (1). A University of California, Berkely study (2) discovered how secondhand cannabis smoke may be more harmful than secondhand tobacco smoke.

From this Washington, D.C. lawsuit, it brings up the topic of public cannabis use. The ruling on this case may encourage similar lawsuits in the future but hopefully, cannabis users and those individuals who do not consume cannabis, can find the means to co-exist.


  1. Zdinjak, N. Woman Who Sued Neighbor Over Marijuana Odor Wins As Judge Rules Pot Smell Creates A Private Nuisance (accessed Jul 21, 2023).
  2. Martinovic, J. Cannabis Smoke from Bongs More Toxic Than Cigarette for Passive Smokers, Here’s Why (accessed Jul 21, 2023).