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Pot may be legal, but homeowner agreements can ban


By KRISTEN WYATT

DENVER (AP) - Pot may be legal in some states - but the neighbors don't have to like it.

Marijuana and hemp have joined wacky paint colors and unsightly fences as common neighborhood disputes facing homeowners' associations. Though a few HOAs have willingly changed their rules to accommodate for legal marijuana use or home-growing, many more are banning home pot smoking.

Homeowners' associations can't ban members from using marijuana in their homes when it's legal. But if neighbors can see or smell weed, the law is clear - HOAs have every right to regulate the drug as a nuisance, or a threat to children along the lines of a swimming pool with no fence.

"The fact that people may be legally entitled to smoke doesn't mean they can do it wherever they want, any more than they could walk into a restaurant and light up a cigarette," said Richard Thompson, who owns a management consulting company that specializes in condominium and homeowner associations.

Thompson said his home condo development in Portland, Oregon, is a prime example of how marijuana's growing acceptance has sparked neighbor conflicts.

"As soon as spring and summer come around, we hear complaints about marijuana smoke because people are out on their patios and they have the windows down," he said.

It's not clear how many homeowners' associations have confronted marijuana conflicts in the 23 states with some form of legal marijuana. But lawyers who specialize in HOA disputes, as well as a Colorado regulatory agency that advises HOAs, say there are growing conflicts among neighbors who want to smoke pot and others who don't want to see it or smell it.

"What we're really seeing more now is regulating the associations' common areas," such as smoke wafting onto playgrounds or others' porches, said Erin McManis, an attorney in Phoenix whose firm represents hundreds of Arizona HOAs.

The Carrillo Ranch homeowners association in Chandler, Arizona, earlier this year took the rare step of withdrawing a proposed ban on residents smoking medical marijuana in their front and backyards and on their patios.

The HOA planned a meeting on the topic in March, but withdrew the proposal after many residents opposed the ban as too harsh.

"This is a personal-freedom issue where people were going to dictate how other people should live," Carrillo Ranch resident Tom LaBonte told The Arizona Republic in February, when the HOA dropped its proposal.

HOA lawyers say the Carrillo Ranch case illustrates the value of HOAs when the law changes, as with marijuana.

"Coming together and working on issues is something associations have been doing for a long time," McManis said. "We're hopeful that's how it's going to go forward now with medical marijuana."

Smoke isn't the only neighbor complaint posed by loosening marijuana laws. Growing pot and hemp is prompting neighbor disputes, too.

A suburban Denver retiree learned the hard way this spring that he needed neighbors' permission before growing hemp. Jim Denny, of Brighton, Colorado, learned about marijuana's non-intoxicating cousin and decided to try the crop on a 75-by-100-foot plot in his yard.

But Denny's hemp plot ran afoul of his homeowners' association, which ruled the hemp experiment unacceptable.

"As soon as they heard about it, they said, 'We're not going to let anyone grow marijuana here,'" Denny said. "I explained to them that hemp is not marijuana, but they were dead-set against it."

So with his hemp plants about 2 feet tall, Denny invited hemp activists to come transplant them to somewhere without opposition from a homeowner association. Denny sold the plants for about $3 each, a good price for a plant whose seeds can cost up to $10 each because it can't be imported.

Hemp activists volunteered to pay Denny's fines for flouting the HOA, which could have run to $600 a day. But Denny decided that living peacefully with his neighbors trumped making a political point.

"I had people calling up and saying, 'It's just a shame; we'll pay your fines all the way through to the end.' But I decided in the end not to fight it," said Denny, a technical writer and former software engineer. "At the end of the day, I live here."

Join the discussion

1000|Char. 1000  Char.
gnobie01 July 26 2014 at 2:32 PM

OUTLAW HOMEOWNER ASSOCIATIONS!!!!...I AM ALSO AGAINST POT USE BUT MORE AGAINST HOAS

Flag Reply +26 rate up
6 replies
iluvfreespeech July 26 2014 at 4:12 PM

ts time to get rid of hoa's and obama

Flag Reply +19 rate up
10 replies
boardsrbetter July 26 2014 at 3:01 PM

HOA are made with the intention of raising property value- so they actually serve a purpose. The problem comes when the people on the board of the HOA become a-holes.

As for the pot, I live in a state where it is still illegal. Oh well, I smoke it inside and outside. A few months ago a cop pulled me over while i was smoking a blunt. When he got to my window he sniffed, looked at it, smiled, and told me my tag light was out.

On another note, the U.S. could eliminate the defecit in less than 2 years if they would tax weed. Also, it shouldnt be illegal anyway, it was outlawed when a billionaire in the timbur industry realized hemp made twice the paper trees do. So he started a smear campaign about how it fries your brain.

Flag Reply +15 rate up
10 replies
dsherline July 26 2014 at 4:16 PM

Why would anyone buy property where someone else (a HOA) can tell them what they can and can't do with it? If I wanted to paint my house purple with big yellow polka dots no one's going to tell me purple or yellow aren't authorized. If I want a split rail fence no one's going to tell me I can only have some other kind of fence. Etc..., etc..., etc...

Flag Reply +13 rate up
4 replies
tropicalriderceo July 26 2014 at 5:26 PM

I don't smoke pot so I don't much care, but I am sick and tired of this HOA crap. Time to seriously restrict HOA powers. They really are wackjobs on sad little power trips..

Flag Reply +13 rate up
4 replies
cdrewparks889 July 26 2014 at 2:25 PM

As a smoker, I can understand this. I hate HOAs and everything about them so I have to set that aside. But it isn't difficult to go into your house and keep the smell from bothering neighbors.

Flag Reply +10 rate up
plybon72 July 26 2014 at 2:32 PM

Why are you living anywhere that has an HOA anyway?

One of the reasons to own your home is the freedom to do with it as you please.
Why would you then buy one knowing that you could not do with it as you please?

Gee there are not enough restictions in my life, I think I will spend a huge amount of money to buy more! -- This makes sense to anyone?

Flag Reply +6 rate up
7 replies
coopdabomb July 26 2014 at 5:17 PM

The p c police strike again.

Flag Reply +5 rate up
Debbie July 26 2014 at 3:32 PM

Some people just don't want to smell that stinking smell...and they sure don't want to have second hand pot smoke for them or their kids...you want to smoke then close up your house and hide behide closed door and windows...I sure don't want to smell it either and if I see it growing well...I might just light the whole thing on fire...that would end the pot smoking for their season.

Flag Reply +5 rate up
13 replies
BRUCE July 26 2014 at 4:05 PM

Ya just know that there are way to many ignorant rednecks smoking weed that have absolutly no curtousy for anyone else. Just because it is legal doesn't mean you can blow the smoke in my face.

Flag Reply +4 rate up
7 replies
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