Washington smells like marijuana. It is a fact, from which it is impossible to escape. Since its inhabitants legalized the possession of this drug at the end of 2014, the aroma of hemp penetrates by surprise and without warning everywhere. The subway, parks, schools, restaurants, bedrooms, and even the courtyard of the White House. The problem has become so common that there is already a case in court, the lawsuit of a woman who accuses her neighbors of forcing her to live by inhaling fumes that, according to public health agencies, can be highly harmful to the health of she. For Josefa Ippolito-Shepherd, this new reality in the US capital has given her more than one headache, as she argues, literally. The smoke from the marijuana that her neighbor consumes sneaks into her apartment through the parquet, through the pipes, through any nook and cranny. Her living room smells like pot, like her kitchen and bedroom. That, for a non-smoker, is a harrowing invasion, one that she cannot escape from her home in the Cleveland Park neighborhood, where she has lived for three decades. Legal actions Thus, this Public Health expert, a veteran of international organizations based in Washington, has decided to take legal action at the age of 76, and has filed a lawsuit for the capital to ban smoking the substance in buildings with more than one dwelling. . Earlier, Ippolito-Shepherd spoke with both the owner of the neighboring house, Angella Farserotu, and her tenant, Thomas Cackett, to try to get them to take action, such as limiting marijuana use. After all, tobacco use is now legally limited in a large number of rental apartments in Washington, and not just in common areas. Even so, the neighbors, the owner and the tenant, rejected those requests. Related news standard No Biden pardons those convicted of federal marijuana possession crimes Javier Ansorena thus fulfills a demand from his supporters one month before the midterm legislative elections Ippolito-Shepherd, retired, represents herself, and, Contacted by ABC, she asks not to make statements until the legal process has finished, which began with the preliminaries in January. She argues that she doesn’t want to ban marijuana in Washington, but rather limit its use in rental apartments. The defendants, owner and tenant, have responded that they are not responsible for the health of a neighbor, and that they do not do anything illegal. The truth is that barely a decade ago, it would have been enough for Ippolito-Shepherd to call the Police emergency number for a patrol to smell his carpets, his sofa, his curtains, to determine that the neighbor was, indeed, smoking marijuana. , and proceed to arrest him. The 2014 referendum, however, legalized the cultivation, possession, use, transfer and donation of marijuana, not only for medical use, but also for personal use . The flourishing of an illegal industry After the Washingtonians endowed themselves with the new regulation on marijuana, the Capitol, which oversees the government of the capital as a federal district, imposed a ban on the commercialization of cannabis. This has not prevented an entire industry from flourishing that can be considered illegal, a vast network of stores that sell marijuana in Washington, but not directly. What they do is sell other products -magazines, dolls, hats, pens, cookies, poems- and as a gift, they give marijuana, in a ruse that allows anyone to get whatever supplies they want. A walk down one of the streets with the most nightlife, U Street, is enough to realize the number of shops and slums that actually sell cannabis and its derivatives, circumventing the law without the risk of paying for it. At the corner of that street and 14th, just two weeks ago a guy was offering hugs and a short speech in exchange for $10, with a free joint, or $60, with 3.5 grams of cannabis. “The ideal thing would be to regulate the sale of marijuana in the same way that the sale of alcohol has been regulated” Meredith Kinner, cannabis expert lawyer According to ABC Meredith Kinner, a well-known and respected cannabis expert lawyer in this area in Washington, this situation of legality can change soon, because a new local law is going to force all these businesses to obtain a medical license to sell through the sanitary route. “Now there should be a period of transition from these businesses, which operate legally, to full legality, with obtaining medical licenses,” says Kinner. “The ideal thing would be to regulate the sale of marijuana in the same way that the sale of alcohol has been regulated, and that each businessman can have up to two licenses, without a maximum number, so as not to harm the sector,” she adds. “Everyone smokes or participates in cannabis in some way. It’s not like 10 years ago. People are coming out of the shadows» Terence White owner of a store that gives away marijuana in Washington For now, the sector has been organizing itself, and has its own lobby, an association of about thirty businessmen called the i-71 Commission, for the key that identifies the measure that legalized cannabis approved in 2014 by referendum. Its president, Terence White, is the owner of Monko, a store in the Mount Vernon Triangle area that gives away gourmet marijuana for the purchase of items such as pins. As he defines it, his business model was for cannabis to stop being clandestine, “something kind of a dump”, and become more like luxury stores like Gucci or Louis Vuitton. According to White, in Washington there is “a lot of money, politicians, doctors, lawyers, everyone smokes or participates in cannabis in some way. It’s not like 10 years ago. People are coming out of the shadows ». Certainly, as the tobacco and liquid nicotine industry has been losing market due to increased regulations, related to scientific research confirming a correlation with lung cancer, that of marijuana has flourished, despite doubts expressed by part of the medical profession. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention of the US government, there is a clear risk in the consumption of marijuana, for those who do it and for those who swallow the smoke passively. According to an official report from that health agency, “secondary smoke from marijuana contains many of the same toxic and carcinogenic chemicals found in tobacco smoke, and contains some of these chemicals in higher amounts.” Secondhand smoke from marijuana also contains tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the compound responsible for most of marijuana’s psychoactive effects. THC can be transmitted to babies and children through secondhand smoke, and people exposed to secondhand smoke from marijuana can experience psychoactive effects, such as getting high,” he adds. It’s something seen firsthand by Aubree Adams, who defines her Colorado state as “ground zero” for marijuana legalization and the public health problems she says it can cause. Seeing a case of serious side effects in a son who tried to commit suicide, this woman founded the organization Every Brain Matters, or ‘All Brains Matter’, dedicated to raising awareness of the effect of cannabis, directly or indirectly inhaled, on minors. “It’s a big business,” she tells ABC. “The legal marijuana industry has to create addiction among its users. So the more potent the product, the more likely it is to become addicted, and the more it affects those who inhale secondhand smoke. It is the same as what happened with the tobacco industry », she adds. By 2030 the cannabis industry could move 100,000 million euros At the moment, the consumption of marijuana for personal use is legal in 21 of the 50 states, including the most populous, such as California or New York. In addition, medical use is legal in 16 others, including Florida and Hawaii. And according to data from the consultancy New Frontier Data, by 2030 the cannabis industry could move 100,000 million in annual sales. At the moment, for a state like California, the taxes related to the legalization of the substance for personal use, which happened in 2016, allow almost 800 million dollars a year to enter public coffers, according to an analysis by the Urban Institute. This explains why in the Federal Government there is a large majority of champions of the cause of legalizing marijuana. President Biden validated a law in December to investigate the possible effects of the substance, a step prior to legalization, and authorized the pardon of people imprisoned for cannabis possession. It is estimated that some 6,500 people convicted at the federal level will benefit from that decision. The new Democratic leader in the House of Representatives, New York representative Hakeem Jeffries, has openly called for the total decriminalization of possession and consumption throughout the country as a way of alleviating the serious problem of overcrowding in North American prisons. These political decisions also have a clear electoral weight. According to the prestigious Pew demographic center, only one in 10 adults believes that marijuana should not be legal under any circumstances. 88% would fully legalize it, without the need for a prescription. “In the long term there has been a notable increase in public support for the legalization of marijuana,” according to estimates by Ted Van Green, an analyst at that institute. The problem, for those who do not consume it like Ippolito-Shepherd, is what to do when its fumes reach the living room itself.