Marijuana use in Oakland
May 6, 2015 9:28 AM   Subscribe

I have some questions about (medical) marijuana use in Oakland. (Primarily about legality, but also a bonus question about drug interactions.)

Firstly, I realize that you are not my doctor, my lawyer, or my priest. I'm looking for anecdotes and opinions, not medical or legal advice.

I live in Oakland, CA. I want to use pot primarily for medicinal reasons, but there are some complications:

1) I live next door to a (public) high school. I know that generally drug use within 1000 feet of a school is a bigger deal.

2) I live in a rental apartment. My landlord lives in the same building and could very possibly smell pot smoke, or see me smoking outside. I don't get the impression that she is the sort of person who'd use pot herself or generally be super laid back about it, though this is hard to know. There is an "illegal activity" addendum in my lease which mentions drug use, although I think that was included because it is part of the boilerplate rental agreement package that my landlord uses with tenants.

I realize I could use edibles or tinctures, but I would really like the option to use inhalation methods. I would also like to avoid buying a vaporizer at first because it seems like the decent ones are an investment, and I'm also not sure if they are totally smell-less.

What options do I have? Would smoking in my car (parked further away from the school) be an option? If a police officer were to notice what I was doing, what's likely to happen? How much would it matter if I have a medical marijuana card? I am someone who is generally unlikely to seem like trouble to police (short, white, female, visibly gay but otherwise fairly conservative in appearance.)

What about smoking in my house or in the yard? What's likely to happen if my landlord says something to me, would having a card help? Is being near a school a problem if I have a card? If worse comes to worse, how would law enforcement be likely to respond to such a situation? My concern is mainly whether I could get in legal trouble (or be evicted) the first time that I was "caught" - if they just give me a warning and ask me to stop, I will handle that situation from there.

Also, more minorly, does anyone have information (scientific or anecdotal) about using marijuana while taking either Wellbutrin or Buspar? Those are both medicines that I have been on in the past and might use in the future, so I am curious how they interact with marijuana.
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
This will help with the smell and the smoke. It really works. Spray some Ozium afterwards and you'll be golden.
posted by désoeuvrée at 10:18 AM on May 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

For the smell/fear of smell, I'd suggest the bathroom with the exhaust fan running and using one of these. Very little smoke and it smells more like burnt popcorn than weed. Your only other olfactory concern would be the smell of the marijuana itself when transporting it inside your house/storing it. Go with jars, not plastic baggies.
posted by kuanes at 10:43 AM on May 6, 2015

In terms of legality, as a general thing I doubt you are going to get in trouble with police because medical marijuana is not illegal in California. While it is in theory possible that federal law enforcement COULD do something under federal law, I think the chances of that are vanishingly small, especially given that you are not some big drug kingpin or in a precarious situation such as being undocumented.

In terms of your lease, your landlady is well within rights to ban whatever she wants -- every rental I've ever been in has banned "smoking" generally (although in practice they have been much more lax on marijuana smoke). What I would do in this case is literally just talk to your landlady and ask! This is Oakland, after all. She might ask you to limit yourself to edibles or a vaporizor, but at least then you would know. In any case, I would not be super worried about some sort of immediate eviction -- this is the Bay Area, and laws are VERY heavily tilted toward renters' rights.

If you do end up deciding not to smoke in the apartment, I would just go to a public park. Willard Park in Berkeley is both fairly nice (i.e. not a homeless encampment) and frequently has people smoking up. Dolores Park in SF would be a reasonable choice as well.

Finally, I would talk to the people at your medical marijuana clinic! They will typically be very knowledgable and can help you out with questions about the best vaporizer (if you go that route), best types for your condition, etc. And I will say for the record that the medical edibles are a LOT different than the brownies you may have baked in college -- much more powerful/effective with a smaller amount. These folks will also likely have some advice on the legal aspects.
posted by rainbowbrite at 11:50 AM on May 6, 2015

It is my understanding that if you are in possession of a medical marijuana card (which are very easy to get in Oakland), you are allowed to purchase, cultivate, possess, and use marijuana in approved locations (these being dispensary clubs and your home). Unless your landlord specifically stated in the lease that you have a non-smoking unit, you should be allowed to smoke in your home.

As far as proximity to a school, I am not sure that applies to private medical marijuana use, but you can call the Oakland Cannabis Club Hotline and double check. They should also be able to advise you on your rental situation, and what rights you have as a tenant.

I had thought that the recreational use bill had passed but I can't find anything online confirming that it is (or ever was) in effect. Your best bet is definitely to get a card and buy from a licensed dispensary to minimize problems.
posted by ananci at 11:51 AM on May 6, 2015

Mmj user here. Just wanted to offer some thoughts:

Vapes are your friend. You can find pretty decent ones online for $50 or so -- you don't need one of the huge, expensive, namebrand ones (ie: Volcano, Arizer). My partner and I have a couple of different cheap vapes and my preferred one is the fake Chinese knock-off of a Volcano/Arizer we got on eBay. It's still going strong after almost 5 years of heavy use. It's ideal because the bowl sits upright (flower doesn't fall into the heating element as you tend to encounter with angled bowls), it's all digital/button display, it's fast to heat up, and has an internal fan (for filling up a 'balloon').

Vapes are good for indoor use because, while they aren't entirely smell-free, they are -significantly- less smelly than using a bong, pipe or joint. This is because the flower you use in it isn't incinerated (as it is with bong/pipes/joints) -- the temperature is controllable and the heating element actually sits away from the flower -- toasting it instead. This results in a lighter smelling smoke that's easily concealed (such as with normal cooking smells) and gentler on the lungs when inhaling. Because of that, I think they're great for indoor use, even in an apartment. As mentioned, I've been using one heavily for 5 years in various apartments and no one has ever suspected -- even maintenance guys who actually saw the vape sitting out. My method has been to open a window and my spice cabinet (to help mask the smell) and roll up a towel and shove it at the bottom of any 'shared' doors (such as the door to the outer hallway). Then I vape in peace, in the comfort of my home and at a pace that I can decide.

When using a vape isn't possible (as it hasn't been since I've been on the road), I've alternated between using a pipe and taking a walk or using inside the car. Having to take a walk to smoke can be problematic -- especially if you can't find a nice little secluded spot to do it in or weather is adverse. I do not recommend doing it near a school of any kind -- even if it means a walk each time you light up. Cops are more likely to be doing patrol of areas with schools and so your chances of being caught (and shown little leniency) seem high. Marijuana is still illegal at the federal level after all, and having a mmj card won't trump that or provide you protection -- your landlord, for example, can still call the cops on you, or evict you, for lighting up in your apartment, or anywhere on the buildings' grounds. Since you're not in a state with recreational marijuana (where cops pretty much turn a blind eye to marijuana use these days), I'd suggest being as discreet and non-offensive to everyone as possible.

Smoking in your car is also a good option if you find a parking spot that offers a little cover/seclusion. I usually put the sun-reflectors up in the windshield, get my phone or tablet out so it looks like I'm doing something and light up. You will smell like marijuana afterwards, as you're essentially hot-boxing yourself with this method, so that is something to consider.

Also, I've taken Buspar while using mmj, and I don't really recommend it. It ramped up my anxiety/paranoia and led to severe negative rumination in some cases. YMMV. Most doctors will suggest you not combine pharmaceuticals -- especially ones treating anxiety or depression -- with marijuana. Indica-heavy and high CBD strains seemed to cause less contraindications with my meds than Sativa strains, but again...YMMV. Definitely consult with your dispensary about strain types that will be most suitable for you and your circumstances.

Good luck.
posted by stubbehtail at 3:29 PM on May 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

I would recommend against smoking in your car. I used to love doing that and then I got in trouble, and it's MUCH worse to be caught in your car than elsewhere. I am no lawyer and this is not legal advice, just be careful.
posted by masquesoporfavor at 4:59 PM on May 6, 2015

I have no idea where you live in Oakland, but I ride my bike everyday from Berkeley to Oakland from one giant cloud of pot smoke to the next - and I even pass a school on my way there. People are smoking in their houses with the windows open, on the porches, on the street corners, in their cars driving by. I, for the life of me, can't imagine ANYONE in the East Bay ever caring about you smoking pot. Your landlord may not want you to smoke in the house, but that is the only issue I could imagine. Though I'm going to guess your landlord smokes pot too. I imagine you probably won't be smoking that much if it is for medicinal purposes - so just a few puffs on the pipe might not be noticeable in the house. Open the window.
posted by Toddles at 8:26 PM on May 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

Oops, one more thing re: pharmaceuticals, keep in mind that you should probably share with your doctor that you are smoking pot because they would want to make sure they know ALL of the meds that you are on. And since you are taking it as a med, and it is legal as a med, talk to her/him about it as if it is a med.
posted by Toddles at 8:28 PM on May 6, 2015

Definitely get a card (or recommendation letter.) That doesn't solve all legal problems, but will at least make your purchase, possession, and use legal under state law. You won't be able to purchase any product at a dispensary without one.

Here's the best summary of California law. Housing.

Landlords CAN evict someone for smoking in a non-smoking residence, so mitigating exposure is a good idea. However, consuming in your residence is definitely better legally than in a car or park. Worth looking into trying a vaporizer, maybe one of the inexpensive ones, to see if you like it.

Your dispensary will also be a good source of information and advice. Berkeley and Oakland both have excellent ones.

And no, recreational mj is definitely not legal in California! You'll get to vote for it next year, though.
posted by gingerbeer at 7:53 PM on May 11, 2015

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