Don’t Judge Someone For Smelling Like Marijuana

Staying home during Spring Break while others go off on luxurious family vacations is nothing new for me. It’s just part of spending a life in education and working for intrinsic satisfaction versus the nice paychecks. I’m not bashing or jealous of others that get to do those things, but this year is even a little more disheartening because the weather in Northern Indiana calls for rain almost every single day. I can handle cold weather, but I at least want to get outside a bit during break.

In order to avoid complete cabin fever during this time and as a way to earn some extra income, I decided to take on a new endeavor: Door Dash. I have always loved driving and listening to the radio or music, so I thought I’d step my toe into these waters to see if it was a worthwhile way to make a little extra money while doing something I enjoy. Turns out, I really enjoy it. On a completely different side note, as someone who just figured out how and started listening to podcasts and who has never taken an Uber before, it is pretty darn easy and self-explanatory. However, the one thing that this new experience has done is opened my eyes a little more to the world of marijuana, legalization, and the impact it has on those that I am around on a daily basis.

As a Door Dash driver, I never know where that next pick-up and drop off is going to take me. I have been in some great neighborhoods, but I have also been in some really interesting apartment complexes. Places quite honestly, I never would go or visit if I weren’t getting paid to do it. Going there during the daytime or evening, I’ve never felt unsafe or worried, but there is one thing that has stood out almost every time I visit the majority of lower rent apartment complexes; the smell of marijuana is overbearing.

When it comes to marijuana usage and smoking, I have absolutely no problem with it. I enjoy drinking alcohol, so why should my vice that intoxicates, clouds judgement, and dulls the senses be any less frowned upon than another? However, I started thinking a bit more about this as I’ve been in and out of multiple apartment complexes lately. When I drink, the alcohol is going directly into my body. My actions might impact others around me, but the effects of my drinking do not impact anyone else’s body or social status. And, the reason I bring up social status is because after visiting these apartment complexes I will never look at anyone who smells like marijuana the same way again, and I challenge you to do the same.

As an educator, and now school director, at a school that works primarily with the at-risk population, it is not uncommon to smell marijuana in my building on a regular basis. Working with adults, I don’t make a big deal out of it, but I do ask that they not smell like that when they return to the building. What they do on their own time is their own business, and I don’t want anyone judging what I do outside of work. When I smell that odor on my students, I assumed it was because they had smoked or gotten a ride to school with someone who was. I didn’t want to judge them, but in the back of my head I always wondered if that was necessary before 9:00 in the morning. It all seemed pretty simple to me, until I started going into these apartment complexes where most of our students might live.

When I arrive at a lot of these places and start walking towards the buildings, I can usually already smell the odor of marijuana in the air. By the time I get inside the building to drop off the food at the door, sometimes the smell is overbearing. I haven’t seen anyone smoking, so it is coming from inside someone’s apartment, but my point is that it is impacting anyone that lives in that building. A number of times, I can still smell the marijuana on myself and in my car for a good amount of time after leaving those buildings. Again, as an adult, it doesn’t bother me, but I’m not the one living there. While I might enjoy a good contact buzz, I can escape back to my own world; and more importantly, my kids aren’t living there.

I have been a strong supporter for full legalization of marijuana ever since states started moving in that direction years ago. If alcohol and tobacco are legal in our country, why not marijuana? I support anyone’s decision to do whatever they want with their health and their body. I believe that each person should have to own and deal with the consequences of their decisions, but who are we to say what is ok to put in your own body and what isn’t? However, I will say that I have been very appreciative over the last 15 years as more states and areas went to banning all smoking indoors. Again, not because I was necessary worried about my health from second-hand smoke, but because I was annoyed by the smell it would leave behind on me and my clothes.

Coming of age in the late 90’s and 2000’s, it was just standard procedure to go out to bars and have fun with friends. There was also a standard procedure that involved as soon as you got home throwing all of your clothes that you were wearing into a pile and jumping into the shower to rinse off the smell of all the second-hand smoke. Important decisions consisted of deciding to wear your coat into the bar on a frigid evening or forgoing the shower and just washing all of your sheets the next morning instead. These are things that today’s generation will never have to contemplate, along with worrying about being exposed to dangerous second-hand smoke. However, now my eyes have been opened to the world of marijuana smoking, and the impacts the lack of legalization is may be having on others.

Dropping off food in Indiana, which will likely be the last state to ever legalize marijuana, has made me contemplate even more why it should be legalized, but its use regulated more carefully. There are countless times in public or at school where I walk by someone and catch an odor of marijuana. Naturally, I thought that they were the ones that had been smoking. However, after my recent experiences I will no longer be making that broad assumption. It’s impossible to live in most apartment complexes these days without someone around you smoking marijuana, which makes it nearly impossible that your clothing and personal items won’t smell the same.

When I was first married, our neighbors in the apartment below us smoked cigarettes all the time. I used to get irritated because per the leasing agreement they couldn’t smoke in the apartment, so they would go out into the stairwell. Therefore, our apartment, specifically our bedroom, would frequently smell like secondhand smoke, and I would be paranoid that my clothing would make it appear that it was myself that was the smoker. The smell of marijuana is even more potent and transferrable to clothing. I can’t imagine living around someone that is constantly filling your own apartment with that smell and putting that odor onto your clothes and anything else you own.

Most apartment complexes where this is taking place likely do not have washer and dryer units inside each residence. Therefore, getting the smell off your clothes is time consuming, costly, and basically irrelevant because marijuana use is so persistent and prevelant in these buildings. So, if you are someone that can’t afford to live in an apartment that runs you more in rent that a lot of mortgage payments what do you do? The answer is that you likely walk around smelling like marijuana when you’re out in public, whether you’re the one who smoked it or not.

There are a lot of ways to mask the smell on yourself and your clothing, and most people that smoke do a decent job with that. However, most people that read this might make broad assumptions about the availability and cost of those items. Can you imagine trying to spray and mask the odor every single time you leave your apartment? What if the one time you run into them is when they’re in the store trying to purchase more spray? What if you run into them after they have gotten out of the car with someone who was smoking?

All I’m asking is that you consider these questions before you quickly cast judgement on someone and their lifestyle because of how they smell. I get that unwanted encounters with marijuana can cause contact buzzes that impact your health and ability to function, but there are so many people out there who are victim of their circumstances and may not be intentionally impacting you. There are many people who do not partake in smoking marijuana, but to the casual observer, it may smell and appear that they are the ones doing so and taking their odors out into public.

At this point, I haven’t even brought up the children living in these buildings. With the odors that I’ve encountered and have carried with me in my brief times in these buildings, it is darn near impossible for kids living in these buildings to not be high or having a contact buzz from the secondhand odors on a regular basis. Furthermore, when a kid might show up at school or in public with those smells, please don’t assume that the parent is the one not being responsible. Just like when people would come back from restaurants and bars smelling like smoke, these kids and familes live around that odor constantly. They cannot avoid it. Additionally, don’t assume that they have the ability or money to wash out those smells every single time before they leave their apartment.

In light of my recent experiences, I really hope that some legislation can come down that makes smoking marijuana in public acceptable, but with limitations. By forcing people to smoke in their place of residence, there are some severe and unintended consequences. People, and more importantly children, are being exposed to odors that can impair them. To compound that, those odors can impact their ability to get a job or how they are perceived in public.

I know not everyone follows the rules, which is greatly evidenced by the amount of smells I experience in Indiana where marijuana is illegal. However, I would like to see the smoking of marijuana inside apartment complexes made illegal. Allow people to smoke outside, where the smell will have less impact and lingering effects on the residents. Allow people to smoke in designated outside public areas, so the likelihood of them carrying that odor on their own clothing into public buildings is slightly diminished. Don’t make smoking marijuana feel like a criminal act. By forcing people to smoke inside, we’re impacting so many more people in negative ways, especially children. I have no idea how to enforce it, but landlords and businesses have learned how to enforce smoke-free guidelines in the past.

While the negative perception of smoking marijuana will likely not change in our country for a long time, it needs to be handled in a similar way as cigarette smoking was. I know this situation of marijuana smoking and odors in lower rent apartment complexes is not new, but it is new to me in my life experiences. Therefore, if you’re someone that views marijuana smokers and odors in a negative way, I challenge you to stop and consider that the person who smells like that might not have a choice as to why they smell that way. Show some empathy and understanding that not everyone might have the same luxuries that you do in your life. Most importantly, don’t judge someone based off a smell, but if you’re going to please understand that maybe it’s not their fault. I never thought being a Door Dash driver would be so enlightening, but I’m forever grateful for this newfound perspective.

Published by mikegallo314

I have been in education for over 20 years, and it has been an amazing and rewarding career. I grew up on the east side of St. Louis, and I'm an avid sports fan. My three biggest addictions in life are the St. Louis Cardinals, St. Louis Blues, and University of Illinois athletics. I love listening to rock blues, and americana styled music. Throughout the years I have coached boys and girls basketball from the youth levels to the varsity level, and the last 10 years I have coached travel baseball. I have a passion for writing, and a long list of experiences and topics that I like to share my thoughts on. The best part about writing, are the conversations and thoughts that are shared as a result.

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