Proposal to Ban Smoking in Apartments Gets Pushback from Cannabis Advocacy Group

The West Hollywood City Council on Monday will consider enacting a ban on smoking and vaping inside new or newly leased apartments, a ban that already is getting some pushback from cannabis advocates.

The Council also will consider banning smoking and vaping in enclosed common areas of apartment and condo buildings and prohibiting smoking in parks. If approved, the proposal would have the city create a registry in which would be listed all apartments designated as non-smoking.

The proposed ban has been under discussion since 2017, when the city’s Rent Stabilization Commission recommended it. The City Council considered it in July of last year. A proposal on the March 16 agenda was put on hold until this coming Monday’s meeting.

In a memo to the City Council, the city’s Department of Public Works notes that the city prohibited smoking tobacco in outdoor dining areas and other public areas in 2011 and has taken steps to reduce the access of children to tobacco. Yet the city still has a low ranking from the American Lung Association.

“While the city earned a grade of “C” on overall tobacco on overall tobacco control, it earned an “F” on its smoke-free housing policies,” the memo says. “This is due to the absence of city policies regulating smoking in apartments, condominiums, or residential common areas.” The memo cites evidence that second-hand smoke has harmful health effects, causing heart attacks, lung cancer, and serious asthma issues.

The memo cites similar restrictions in other cities. One of the most restrictive is Beverly Hills. Beginning on Jan. 1, 2018, it prohibited smoking in all indoor and exterior common areas of multi-unit properties and inside all multi-family units, including condominiums. Tenants who smoked were given one year before the ban took effect on their units. The smoking regulations applied to tobacco smoke, electronic cigarettes/vaping devices, and cannabis smoke.

City Councilmember John Duran is questioning the ban because of its likely impact on those who smoke cannabis products. Duran has noted that under state law it is illegal to consume cannabis in public places. If the city were to ban smoking cannabis inside apartments or condos, “wouldn’t this amount to a ‘de facto’ ban on cannabis consumption citywide?” Duran has asked.

CA NORML, a non-profit organization that has advocated for reforming laws that restrict access to cannabis, objects that a blanket smoking ban would unfairly affect those smoking cannabis by treating it like tobacco.

“Unlike tobacco cannabis has been found not to cause lung cancer, heart disease, or COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), even when smoked firsthand.” CA NORML argues.

And it notes that the state of California has deemed cannabis an “essential” medicine, which has allowed cannabis shops to remain open during the COVID-19 shutdown.

“This makes it inconceivable that West Hollywood would afford its citizens less freedom to consume cannabis than it does tobacco, which has no medical purpose,” says CA NORML.

CA NORML also argues that a ban that covers smoking cannabis in multi-unit residential buildings, which make up 73% of the city’s housing units, would be socially inequitable.

“The current measure would allow only the minority of West Hollywood residents wealthy enough to live in single-family homes to legally consume cannabis. This is directly contrary to West Hollywood’s values of equity and inclusion.”

The City Council’s virtual meeting will take place at 5:30 p.m. on Monday. The city advises that residents “may view the City Council meetings from your computer, tablet or smartphone. City Council meetings are broadcast live on WeHoTV on Spectrum Ch. 10 in West Hollywood and AT&T U-verse Ch. 99 in Southern California, and are streamed live on the city’s website at www.weho.org/wehotv and on YouTube at www.youtube.com/wehotv. WeHoTV programming is also available on multiple streaming platforms, including Android TV, Apple TV, Fire TV, and Roku. Digital streaming platform viewers can easily find programming by searching for ‘WeHoTV’ within the search functions of these services.”

Anyone wanting to comment on an item on the Council’s agenda is asked to submit the comment by 4 p.m. on Monday using a form found online here. Those comments will be forwarded to Council members. Those who wish to call in and comment during the meeting are asked to email City Clerk Yvonne Quarker at yquarker@weho.org no later than 4 p.m. on Monday to be added to the speaker list. Include your name, telephone number and the item you want to speak on. Then, 10 minutes before the start of the meeting, dial (669) 900-6833 and enter meeting I.D. number 924 5862 2275# to be put on hold until the relevant agenda item comes up for discussion.


22 Comments
  1. This proposal — as it applies to cannabis — flies in the face of the city’s values. It would prohibit private, state-legal conduct in a private homes with no compelling reason to do so. In doing so, it would make it impossible for many people to use the medicine they depend on to manage cancer and AIDS-related wasting and nausea, pain, sleeplessness, spasms, seizures, and other serious symptoms. Smoking cannabis in public (other than costly cafes that aren’t practical for regular treatment) is illegal.

    Even first-hand cannabis smoke is not linked to lung cancer, COPD, and the other serious health effects of risks tobacco smoke. While more than 480,000 Americans die of tobacco each year, cannabis use is not even shown to increase the risk of mortality. 

    Moreover, there is no showing that cannabis smoke in one residence has deleterious health outcomes for people in another residence. The fact that cannabis may include trace amounts of certain chemicals does not mean it’s dangerous to others in other residences. Think of how many things have Prop 65 warnings on them, because when you pump enough one component into an animal in huge doses they may die. Why not ban people painting their nails at home? Fumes from nails are far more dangerous than cannabis smoke.

    Numerous studies have demonstrated that smoked and vaporized cannabis has therapeutic benefits. While edibles are important for some patients, they are no substitute. Edibles can take a half-hour or longer to take effect, and thus do not provide the same rapid relief of inhaled cannabis. With several ailments — including an aura before a seizure, relaxing a spasm, quelling nausea, and alleviating pain — that immediate relief is crucial to the treatment.

    1. Enlightened individuals, medical professionals and many highly respected cancer centers utilize TCM with exceptional results. Thousands of years of Acupuncture, Herbs and Tui Na do not disturb your friends and neighbors with offensive smoke nor do these treatments become habit forming. Individuals do not become habitual users dependent on their properties. The optimum goal is a balanced body mentally, physically and emotionally. One can learn how to become proactive and invested in their own maintenance rather than feeling hopeless and helpless.

      You may not be aware that many Chinese doctors have particular expertise and specialties in and dedication to particular human conditions. `

  2. I wonder if the Council members who vote for this measure will return political contributions from the marijuana industry; if the second hand smoke is so bad it would be immoral to keep the cash.

    As a non-smoker I don’t really have a dog in the fight but it seems that in the past there has been concerns about the potential of evicting hundreds of long term tenants from West Hollywood. It would seem easy to send out a mass mailing to let everyone, tenants, condo owners, all have a chance to give input. I suspect a lot of people will be very surprised to find that the City has banned marijuana smoke in their homes after so many years of being the cheerleader for recreational use. I have friends who are hyper sensitive to second hand smoke who feel victimized by their neighbors so it maybe impossible to craft a perfect solution.

  3. If West Hollywood, after spending years fight FOR medical cannabis passes this ordinance, WeHo becomes a place to AVOID, punishing people who can’t afford to buy their own homes.

    Just where are people supposed to use medical marijuana if they can’t do it where they live, since they can’t use it in public?

  4. Could the City invite Greta Thunberg to address the City and City Council on the benefits of advocation for clean air and the dangers of carcinogens in the grand scheme of Global Warming?

    The City of West Hollywood could actually demonstrate their attempt to be in the lead on this. A clean, smoke free, cannabis free 1.9 sq mile city would be an accomplishment. Much easier to achieve than if one were living in Manhattan/

  5. Will be interesting to see how this goes. They want the cannabis revenues and boast how great it is but not the smoke that comes with it. Like having your cake and eating it too. Would be nice to see them think about the unintended consequences of their actions and positions for once.

  6. I find smoking to be disgusting. I do not in any way support evicting smokers from all condominiums and apartments in West Hollywood. There many ways to limit the bad effects of smoking in buildings without punishing so many people.

  7. This is the 21st century and a time for the City of West Hollywood to demonstrate an authentic, demonstrable commitment to climate and environmental concerns. While a demonstration of leadership is not anticipated certainly a good faith showing of consciousness and action is required by the City Council in unanimous agreement.

  8. Secondhand smoke from combusted marijuana )”SMS” contains fine particulate matter that can be breathed deeply into the lungs, which can cause lung irritation, asthma attacks, and makes respiratory infections more likely. Exposure to fine particulate matter can exacerbate health problems especially for people with respiratory conditions like asthma, bronchitis, or COPD.

    Significant amounts of mercury, cadmium, nickel, lead, and chromium are found in SMS, as well as 20 times the amount of ammonia and 3-5 times more hydrogen cyanide in marijuana smoke than is in tobacco smoke. 

    In 2009, the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment added marijuana smoke to its Proposition 65 list of carcinogens and reproductive toxins.. It reported that at least 33 individual constituents present in both marijuana smoke and tobacco smoke are Proposition 65 carcinogens.

    SMS has many of the same chemicals as smoke from tobacco, including those linked to lung cancer.

    Exposure to SMS impairs blood vessel function. Thirty minutes of exposure to SMS at levels comparable to those found in restaurants that allow cigarette smoking led to substantial impairment of blood vessel function. SMS exposure had a greater and longer-lasting effect on blood vessel function than exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke.8 

    SMS and secondhand tobacco smoke likely have similar harmful health effects because of their similar chemical composition, including atherosclerosis (partially blocked arteries), heart attack, and stroke

  9. I think this has to do with the landlords not wanting to deal with the damage smoke does to the inside of the apartment, the walls, the carpeting, the blinds, the curtains, etc. Plus the liability for second hand and third hand smoke that is a cancer causing liability.

  10. How did pot gain the accolade of being totally innocuous? Smoke is smoke, a collection of airborne particulates and gases emitted when a material burns. It is a pollutant. Pot smoke is not a magical gas-less and particle-less substance. And the smell is annoying. We do compare it to skunk….

  11. In my apartment building people are vaping and smoking pot at 6am and 7am in the morning and at night and there is the constant skunk weed smell making its way into my apartment where I like to keep my windows open for the fresh air and the breeze. It’s the kind of smoke smell that makes me sneeze a lot.

  12. There’s nothing worse than smelling pot when you’re someone that doesn’t use. Before the pandemic, you could no longer sit and have a meal on the blvd without having to put up with the smell of pot from people passing by while using. We should have stricter laws regarding smoking (anything) in a public space. But that would require enforcement and our city (like so many these days) are afraid to enforce their own laws and the people that break them know it.

  13. Residents have a normal expectation of clean air free of cannabis and/or tobacco pollution. Because an individual chooses to pollute their bodies should not result in collateral damage to others.

    If you have ailments try TCM, very effective and does not create lifelong dependency.

  14. Smoking anything is a nuisance and pollution to neighbors. The Avalon was a nightmare for anyone with health issues affected by second hand marijuana and cigarette smoke which came up through the floors. And yes, CA NORML is correct as usual, putting smoke into your lungs is really good for you!

  15. I moved into a “No Smoking” building. But a lot of my neighbors flout their lease agreement and smoke on their patios, this has also increased with shelter in place. There are no legal protections, and it’s hard to report what you can’t see. I also have rhinitis, so exposure to second hand smoke means I get burning, dripping, congestion and coughing. Too much exposure results in sinus infections and need to take a z-pack. So this means I can never open my windows. Exposure to second hand smoke also increases risk of respiratory issues, infections (bronchitis and pneumonia), exacerbates asthma, heart disease, lung cancer and stroke. With Covid, exposure to second hand smoke can also increase your susceptibility of getting the virus, as well as severity. This should be a no brainer. I understand John Duran is a libertarian who’s been in office too long, but shouldn’t the rights of 80% of the population to breathe clean air with out being put at risk of health issues or even death outweigh the rights of 20% of the population that choose to smoke a toxic substance? As for marijuana, there are so many alternative delivery mechanisms that won’t damage your lungs or others.

  16. To John Duran’s comment: “wouldn’t this amount to a ‘de facto’ ban on cannabis consumption citywide?” I would argue that cannabis for medical (or recreational) use isn’t limited to smoking. There are a wide variety of edibles which achieve the same effect as smoking it. Banning smoking is a no brainer. Why should non smokers be subject to second hand smoke and the putrid smell of cannabis smoke? Many progressive (and civilized) cities are banning smoking in varying forms. This is is a good example of why West Hollywood needs new leadership. Duran’s comment sounds like he’s promoting the cannabis business and ignoring public health and the quality of life for all Residents.

    1. A glance online does not list one city where smoking is banned in the great outdoors. Banning smoking, as you say, in varying forms is one thing, banning smoking outside is another. Please include citations, Mr Schmidt.

      1. Wrong. There are lots of cities such as New York that ban smoking certain distances from building entrances and within the public spaces and atriums required by planners.

    2. Edibles, vaping, and smoking all have different rates of metabolism in the body. While vaping passes through fairly quickly, edibles remain in your system the longest, which can be a problem because it can interfere with work hours.

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