How Can I Stop Neighbor From Growing Marijuana in Backyard?

Although several states allow a person to grow marijuana for personal use, their operation should not create a nuisance for neighbors or violate the terms of any such laws.

Question

My next door neighbor has several large marijuana plants growing in his backyard. I know smoking marijuana in my state is now legal, but is growing marijuana also legal? One concern I have is that my neighbor has no fence or screening, so you can see the plants from the road. I do not want the plants to attract thieves or neighborhood children. You also can also smell the marijuana when it processed and dried, which I find offensive.

How do I stop my neighbor from growing marijuana?

Answer

While it depends on what state you live in, several states, including Colorado and Oregon, allow a person to grow marijuana for personal use. Although Washington state allows the recreational use of marijuana, it is not legal to grow your own there. If you live in a state that permits people to grow their own marijuana, it may be difficult to get your neighbor to completely stop growing. However, the grow must still comply with state and local law.

In the states that allow “home grows,” there are typically limits on the number of plants a person can legally grow. For example, in Oregon, adults can grow up to four plants per household. And in Colorado, a single adult can grow up to six plants, but up to 12 plants per household if there is more than one adult.

In addition to the number of plants, there may be limits to the number of mature plants a person can have at any one time. So, someone may be able to have six plants, but only three mature plants at one time.

In the states where it is legal to grow marijuana, it is also a requirement that the plants be enclosed and out of public view. In other words, growing marijuana in a front yard garden with no fence would not be legal. However, if it is grown in a locked, fully enclosed area that is out of view from the general public, the home grow is likely legal.

Whether the grow is legal when only the neighbor can see the plants in the grower’s backyard is a tougher question. Some local ordinances declare it a violation if neighboring properties can see the plants, despite what the general public can see.

Before involving law enforcement or the legal system, you might try to resolve the dispute informally. In cases like this, a first step might be to casually bring up your concern next time you see your neighbor. By being nonconfrontational, you may find your neighbor is unaware he is doing anything offensive and that he is willing to build an enclosure or move his plants to a less visible and more secure location (after all, it is to his advantage to protect his crop from thieves). Community mediation is another relatively informal means of resolving neighbor disputes.

If your neighbor refuses to create an enclosure and secure his plants, you may need to call law enforcement. In cases like this, you may want to warn your neighbor first that if nothing changes, calling the police will be an option. Unless it is an emergency, you should call the non-emergency phone number. A threat from the police to issue a citation may be enough to get your neighbor to make the necessary changes.

Some cities have also adopted nuisance laws declaring any marijuana odor (whether from the smoke or the plant itself) to be a nuisance. The result of these laws is that if the smell of marijuana drifts off the grower’s property so that a neighbor can smell it, the grower may be creating a nuisance and subject to a citation (and maybe even civil liability). If such law exists in your city, you have another tool with which to combat the grow, because even if the grow is out of sight and secure, the odor from growing and processing can continue to be a nuisance.

It is also possible, although perhaps unlikely, that there is a basis for a civil lawsuit. This may be a stretch, especially if your neighbor is in compliance with the law. However, if the odor is bad enough or the plants are leading to crime in your neighborhood, you should talk to a lawyer about whether there is a legal basis in your state to pursue a civil claim against your neighbor.

Legal marijuana presents a number of new issues that are still being worked out by lawmakers and judges. As a result, the law continues to evolve. A local attorney familiar with the laws and recent changes can help you determine what your rights are and the best way to stop your neighbor’s marijuana grow.

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