That smell (cf. Lynard Skynard)
June 29, 2019 9:05 AM   Subscribe

I have an 18-year-old child who smokes weed, in the privacy of our home, in Baltimore where such behavior has been decriminalized. I do not object to that. But try as he might to confine the smell to his room, the whole apartment is on the same A/C vent system, and the, uh, force is strong throughout, particularly when he's actually lighting up.

My first question is, is there anything I can do to ameliorate the smell? It may be my imagination, but it smells much worse than I recall from my own teen years*, and that was already bad enough. I am seeking anything effective at neutralizing, or failing that, covering up the scent. I would even be willing to burn incense if that works, but I know that for some scents the cure is worse than the disease. In any case, I would prefer some system that works continuosly.

My second question is, could we be inconveniencing anyone else? Flats in this building have individual A/C, but sometimes I can hear people talking from the pool downstairs, which suggests that the place is hardly air-tight. However, I hear them through the fan vent in the bathroom, which I imagine is designed to vent outside, so maybe there's no problem about the A/C itself. I worry because he shares a wall with a very sweet elderly** couple, who I am certain would never say a word if they could smell it, but I would prefer not to put them out.

We have an outside balcony, but I feel that's insufficiently private, and that we would be certain to hear from our rather active co-op board within 24 hours of trying it.

* admittedly, 50 years ago
**i.e., even older than I
posted by ubiquity to Home & Garden (45 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Could he vape instead?
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:08 AM on June 29 [19 favorites]

Febreze Fabric Refresher Allergen Reducer Unscented
This stuff removes odors after the smell has settled. So it isn't preventative, but it is helpful. The original version of Febreze was unscented but in order to sell it the manufacturer had to add an odorant because smokers couldn't smell the smoke....

As for a thing your teen might try, the old cardboard tube with a dryer sheet stuffed into it is terrible in my memory. But it does lead the mind to other potential filters to collect the smoke exhaled. So, perhaps a HEPA filter?
posted by bilabial at 9:27 AM on June 29 [1 favorite]

Vaping has almost no odor and none at all that lingers or carries. It's also safer (no burning material) and I'm told it's healthier on your lungs. A vape cartridge and battery may set you back a bit more than a joint but it lasts a lot longer. As a daily user I get a couple months worth out of a cartridge.
posted by Pastor of Muppets at 9:33 AM on June 29 [4 favorites]

Can he vape instead of smoking flower, at least at home? Everyone has their weed consumption preferences, but as he is sharing space with you and other adults, maybe he could compromise on an alternate method of delivery at home. Vapes aren't entirely odorless but they are certainly better than skunky smoke.
posted by adastra at 9:34 AM on June 29

However, I hear them through the fan vent in the bathroom, which I imagine is designed to vent outside, so maybe there's no problem about the A/C itself.

Your question reminded me of this askme and the short answer appears to be "yes."
posted by acidnova at 9:38 AM on June 29 [2 favorites]

If I had an adult relative smoking a decriminalized substance in my house and the smell bothered me, I would ask them to please smoke outside. If it isn't illegal, why is the privacy of the balcony a concern?
posted by humboldt32 at 9:40 AM on June 29 [6 favorites]

many times vent fans are "ganged together" on a common duct. They are supposed to have a backdraft damper that prevents exhausted air from one fan from coming back though another fan, but this is a mechanical thing subject to failure.
Such a duct will not have any insulation inside it to dampen sound, so hearing things through it is not proof the backdraft damper is not operating. Much like a speaking tube of the old days.
posted by rudd135 at 9:42 AM on June 29 [1 favorite]

humboldt32, decriminalized does not mean that employers/neighbors/others will not make judgments about people doing the thing. It's also still illegal federally.
posted by augustimagination at 9:43 AM on June 29 [1 favorite]

Good grief! Make him go outside! Burning things in the house is going to smell no matter what.
posted by amtho at 9:43 AM on June 29 [10 favorites]

Oops, I need to clarify my response!

My second question is, could we be inconveniencing anyone else?

This is the part of your question I was really saying, "yes" to. The askme that I linked was someone complaining about weed smoke coming into their bathroom vent from a neighbor.

In short, don't smoke in the bathroom. The smoke isn't going to go directly outside and will likely go into your neighbor's bathrooms.
posted by acidnova at 9:43 AM on June 29

Sorry, just saw the point about judgy neighbors. But really, for me, doing that in the house would be a non-starter. Maybe you could put up a privacy screen or something.
posted by amtho at 9:45 AM on June 29 [1 favorite]

...although that would still impact your neighbors because of the smell. Maybe a non-fire-based consumption method?
posted by amtho at 9:46 AM on June 29

Really, outside is not an option, as I said. This is not a stand-alone home, but a unit in a highly-regulated condo building where we have strict rules as to what may appear on our outside balconies. This is a very short list which does not include privacy fences or dope-smoking teenagers, and I am disinclined to be a rebel, pioneer or test case in this regard. But I am appreciating all the other advice and information.
posted by ubiquity at 10:16 AM on June 29

Ugh, yeah, this sucks. Vaping is probably the best bet -- my understanding is that you don't get the taste and some of the subtleties of straight-up smoking a joint, but you also get to skip the...everything else. Also, he might be able to do that outside since it'll just look like he's juuling or whatever. (I have vaped exactly once, and it had the same effects as smoking, but I don't remember the smell being strong.)

Also in re: the smell -- I mean, it depends on the strain? Living in a place where pot is legal, I do notice that it smells a lot better than whatever ditch weed I was exposed to 10-20 years ago, but yeah, I get the sense from talking to my dad/other older pot smokers that the actual drug parts have gotten considerably stronger over the intervening years, and that could apply to the smell as well.

Also, if he is open to not smoking at all, I really cannot say enough good things about tinctures. You can pick indica, sativa or a hybrid, just pop a dose under your tongue and you're good to go, with the dose acting rather like smoking. I'm not sure how price compares, though.
posted by kalimac at 10:18 AM on June 29 [1 favorite]

Definitely don't send him outside to smoke. I have more than one friend who lost use of their windows and their balcony because of neighbours smoking weed making them sick. In the summer not being able to open your windows because of a neighbour is misery indeed. I am very glad you are not willing to transfer your problem outside.

He shouldn't be smoking or vaping - both appear to be bad for the health, including for passive smokers. Is there any way he can get a reliable source of edibles, including if he gets the basic ingredients and makes it himself?

Why is he smoking? Is there any way he could transfer his smoking to an out of the house location such as a marijuana cafe? This would not work if he is smoking so he can get to sleep, but if he is smoking to deal with anxiety so he can concentrate on studying, he could go to the other location, take his hit and then leave and come home or go to the library. And this assumes there is a safe other location that he can do his smoking, and that he is not lighting up every fifteen minutes the way some people do to deal with pain.

Would an non-vented air purifier for cigarette smokers help?
posted by Jane the Brown at 10:32 AM on June 29

Gonna pile on the Vaping option Puff it Up is a great online store to compare shop, and they provide excellent CS. When you burn a joint or bowl, much of the fun goes literally "Up in Smoke". A nice portable Vape like a Fury2 is less than $150, and would pay for itself in no time. VapCaps are cheap and popular, but require a butane lighter, and you will look like a crack addict. I can hold my Fury2 in the palm of my hand, and enjoy almost anywhere. There is a little smell, but it is perhaps 1/10 as strong as a joint and it dissipates quickly.
posted by lobstah at 11:07 AM on June 29 [2 favorites]

At the very least, have him sit next to an open window and exhale the smoke outside. Vaping is not odorless, but it will smell a lot less than smoke, plus it’s healhier. There are devices that allow you vape the flower - you don’t have to use cartridges. Check out Planet of the Vapes.
posted by gnutron at 11:08 AM on June 29

This might not be a concern depending on how your building is structured—but In my experience in apartment buildings, any kind of smoking smell (tobacco or weed) does migrate to the hallway. If your condo board is really strict and doesn’t allow smoking, then you might be in trouble even if no neighbor complains to you—they might go straight to the board. I would never have complained to you or the board but the smell would have bugged me (but then a lot of things about apartment/condo living bug me and are still worth it).

As for Febreeze, it might be effective on subtler smells but it hasn’t worked for me on real stenches (like hockey equipment bags, barf), and the fake perfume smell of Febreeze isn’t pleasant either.
posted by sallybrown at 11:25 AM on June 29 [1 favorite]

A toilet paper tube with a dryer freshener thing rubber banded to it was what I used in college a million years ago.
posted by geoff. at 11:42 AM on June 29

Seconding KMoney. Son can take a walk and smoke, if it's legal. I'd be very surprised if smoke in his room isn't noticed by the neighbors. Most neighbors won't welcome the smell.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 11:55 AM on June 29 [3 favorites]

Another cheap solution is to use a smoke buddy - you exhale into it. They work pretty well!
posted by Paper rabies at 12:29 PM on June 29 [3 favorites]

Was coming in with Smoke buddy and Smoke buddy junior. Longtime friend of weed smokers everywhere. There are fancier versions but they just work.
posted by spitbull at 12:34 PM on June 29 [3 favorites]

In most places where weed is decriminalized you can still get hassled for smoking in public, usually confiscation and a small fine.
posted by vogon_poet at 12:40 PM on June 29 [1 favorite]

[A couple comments deleted. The suggestion "just don't smoke in the house" has been made. From here on, please assume OP has considered that, and stick to ways to ameliorate the smoke issue.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 12:49 PM on June 29 [2 favorites]

Dry herb vape (especially if you live in a place where concentrates aren’t regulated and tested) and a Smoke Buddy is the correct answer.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 12:58 PM on June 29 [2 favorites]

My husband is a weed smoker. I’ve asked, and he has agreed, that only vaping is cool inside the house - other odor-producing smoking happens elsewhere. It’s a compromise that works well for us and keeps our house smelling like our house.
posted by samthemander at 1:04 PM on June 29 [2 favorites]

If it isn't illegal, why is the privacy of the balcony a concern?

The person is a juvenile (under 21) so subject to court appearance and sentencing for drug treatment. Potentially a risk for the parents of the juvenile as well.
posted by JackFlash at 1:33 PM on June 29

I hate to keep threadsitting, but I feel I need to make a couple of clarifications:
  1. It is illegal, but the first offense is, officially, like a traffic ticket. However, as JackFlash points out, since child is only 18, even a single police-involved offense will be extremely inconvenient.
  2. I currently live in downtown Baltimore. If I still lived in Austin I would have no trouble telling him to hit the road when he wants to toke. But I think that solution could actually be dangerous here.
  3. My child has issues which have definitely benefited from being able to toke up at home. I do not want him to stop. I do want him to do it safely. I just want to deal better with the olfactory problem.
Thanks for your suggestions.
posted by ubiquity at 1:58 PM on June 29 [4 favorites]

I switched to using a smoke buddy and a HEPA filter with a carbon prefilter for smoke when I light up and it's cut down on SO. MANY. SMELLS. I got the HEPA filter at a thrift shop and bought new filters on Amazon and it's been good to go. Good on you for wanting to help your son and be a good neighbor. Fwiw, I don't vape because I don't get the same anxiety relieving effects as when I use flower, so its not the definitely smell answer everyone says it is imo.
posted by julie_of_the_jungle at 2:24 PM on June 29 [2 favorites]

Oil pens and concentrates are what is needed here. The smell goes away in no time.
posted by porn in the woods at 2:29 PM on June 29 [1 favorite]

Get a dried flower vapourizer and a good grinder. I adore my PAX3.

There is a little bit of smell, but it doesn't linger. Experience full spectrum of positive effects and it is very much milder.

Good quality ones are a bit pricey but definitely worth it.
posted by porpoise at 2:29 PM on June 29 [1 favorite]

Another vote for dry flower vaporizer (those in legalized for recreation states seem to have forgotten how difficult it is to get anything but dry flower in non legal states). I can vouch for the LaunchBox. It's not odorless, but it's way way better.
posted by soren_lorensen at 4:45 PM on June 29

Maybe check some of these out:

4 Best Air Purifiers for Smoke and Weed in 2019

Prices vary, mostly expensive, but there’s a recommendation for a good one at around $100.
posted by malthusan at 7:01 PM on June 29

Definitely Smoke Buddy. It works great.

Also a good grinder if he's not already using one, which will help control combustion.
posted by neckro23 at 12:54 AM on June 30

No, seriously, everyone should try a dry flower (bud/ herb) vapourizer. They're amazing.

I enjoy concentrates, but the "oil" market is under-regulated. Even the definition of "oil."

I only need about 1/3 the amount of material to get the same potency and duration from vapourizing dry flower than smoking it. A $200 piece of glass equipment pays for itself very quickly, especially if you buy your bud in ounces.

(vaping nicotine doesn't help my cigarette addiction, though)

Mine's a generation or two old now, but it charges in under an hour and it still gives me 5 to 7 sessions between charges.

Easy to adjust temperature; the highest is totally unnecessary but simulates torching a nail; the medium setting is fine even for using the adapter to vape concentrates. It even has a bluetooth thing so you can adjust it from your phone. There's a plugin where you can have control down to individual degrees. The sensor in the thing can even accurately report between 220'C+ (leaving it on, on high and max settings) to sub -10'C (sticking in the freezer and reading it's reported temp via bluetooth) temperatures.

The odour profile of vaping is very much different than burning it; it smells more like a pot of tea rather than burning a pile of tea leaves, actively with positive oxygen flow.
posted by porpoise at 3:30 AM on June 30 [1 favorite]

Counterpoint: dried flower vaping is a realy inefficient way to consumer expensive flower. I find it barely gets me to stage one. If I was on a teenage weed budget there’s no way I’d be so wasteful. (I own many such vapes and have used them where necessary over the years).

Vaping concentrates is the way of the future. It’s super efficient and very discreet, and it can get you ripped faster and harder than smoking flower. A concentrate vape and a Smoke buddy is hotel room safe — no one will ever know. And dollar for dollar it’s a better value than smoking flower, even if it lacks the pleasures of the latter.

Problem will be getting safe and legit concentrate product in DC. I would consider a drive to Massachusetts where concentrates are widely available, assayed and guaranteed quality. You could go to western mass and hit 4-5 stores on a weekend and come home with enough to last a couple months. (2 cartridges per customer per store per day, 5 stores over two days is 10 cartridges, double that if you can bring a second adult.) I find a .5ml cartridge is good for 100-120 draws. They range from $45 to $70 prefilled. 2-3 draws is like smoking a whole bowl of flower and lasts quite a while even with a high tolerance. So 10 would last a while.

I wouldn’t say don’t try a flower vape, but I’ve tried them all from Volcano to Pax to Magic flight and g pen. It’s messy, and it doesn’t get you very high if you have any kind of tolerance unless you blow through several grams of flower in an hour that would have lasted several days.

YMMV. I am done with flower vaping.
posted by spitbull at 8:26 AM on June 30 [4 favorites]

Also to add the level of dosage control in a concentrate/oil vape is outstanding, which I have never found to be true of flower vaping. The concentrates are often flavored with cannabis terpenes to be quite tasty. The smell is perfumey and dissipates in seconds.

Also $10-20 for a battery that last for months (variable voltage units are worth the money) beats the hell out of paying $150-400 for a flower vape that is just an equally short-lived battery attached to a ceramic chamber. There is no good reason for flower vapes to cost what they do.
posted by spitbull at 9:12 AM on June 30 [2 favorites]

Counter-counter-point: none of the dry herb vapes that spitbull mentioned are considered anywhere close to being heavy hitters. I’ve never once had a smoker walk away from a session with a Flowerpot or Sticky Brick underwhelmed. Everyone’s mileage is going to vary, of course, but there are a lot of people out there who’s opinions on flower vapes were formed from devices that are either subpar or simply outdated.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 10:38 AM on June 30 [3 favorites]

Counter-counter-counter: I didn’t say my list exhausted my experience.

The inefficiencies involved are thermodynamic and chemical. As I also said, YMMV. Feel free to spend hundreds of dollars on it. For me, meh.
posted by spitbull at 10:44 AM on June 30

Cost-wise, a good flower vape has taken me from 7g’s a week to 2g’s, with an increase in effects, so for me I’ve ended up with a pretty significant net savings even with cost of devices factored in.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 10:58 AM on June 30 [1 favorite]

I bought my PAX3 over a year ago, and haven't noticed any degradation in battery life. Shake it sideways while in operation and it shows battery life in 6 increments on the multipurpose LED signout. 0 to full charge takes less than an hour, and a 10 minute charge from 0 will give you a session if you forgot to charge it.

As a daily 1-3 bowl/ evening user, I'm still a 1-3 sessions/ evening user - but use about 1/3 as much dried flower to get just as high. When bud dries out, it can be harsher when smoked. Some of my bud got a lot older than I'm used to and it's still good in the vape when it would have been a lot harsher smoke.

Devices have much faster heating times now and much more controlled heating temperatures. Electronic dried flower vapes are excellent for one discrete session (clear, refill with new material) vs. a concentrate vape that heats and cools a much smaller volume of material where you can take a 'sip' every 20 minutes or whatever. Most vapes will claim that you can have multi-sessions with dried flower, but the material degrades very quickly after the first session, no matter how quick.

Achieving the appropriate temperature is important, too. A lot of cheaper vapes aren't accurate and either aren't hot enough to efficiently extract, or too hot and thermally degrade the phytochemicals.

Controlling the temperature to be lower can also dial down the smell. Taking longer/ slower draws can compensate. The technique for drawing from a vape is very different than from smoking (joint or bong). Longer, slower draws from a vape is preferred and achievable because it isn't so irritating to lung passageways. It's the difference in release rate from the material that the releasing method is employing.

I'm wary of the additives in concentrates; sure, I enjoy artificial blueberry or mango or watermelon flavours, but the un-regulated nature of the thing allows for contaminants to enter the supply stream. A Canadian LP was able to get away with flavouring their (3% capped, garbage) oil with Health Canada by calling the flavouring agent the carrier solution. The rules are overly restrictive, but even in Canada the rules aren't actually developed around safety, but rather the illusion of it. But the risk profile overall is pretty low (I think the regulations for edibles that just came out is incredibly stupid though).
posted by porpoise at 7:31 PM on June 30 [1 favorite]

The inefficiencies involved are thermodynamic and chemical. As I also said, YMMV.

For sure. Tech has solved all of those problems. As has using the tech appropriately.
posted by porpoise at 12:54 AM on July 1 [1 favorite]

Aside from vaping, does his room not have a window? In most situations, this would be solved by getting one of those exhaust (or dual intake-exhaust) fans you sit inside the windowsill, blowing hits out the window and sitting the bowl or bong on a little table next to the extraction fan.

And if required, putting a towel in a gap under the door to the room etc to prevent drift into other rooms.

A SmokeBuddy works too, but they get funky and need to be replaced quickly (they retain moisture) and are really just an upgraded version of dryer sheets and/or activated carbon pellets for aquariums, in a toilet paper roll or short length of PVC. And with anything like that, sooner rather than later you forget to use it.

The retail cannabis world has produced some cannabis specific spray deodorizers you might want to look into. I have one from a trade show I went to that works so well I wonder what's in it and what it's doing to me even though it says it's "all natural" -- but it's not where I am now so I can't give you a brand name. There's a bunch on the google machine.
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:12 PM on July 1

Came in to suggest my version of the toilet paper roll with dryer sheet which is two dryer sheets in a sawed off 1 liter pop bottle. If this fixsolves your problem, probably worth buying a smoke buddy. If not, probably not.

The other thing that might help is a magnet large enough to temporarily cover any vents while he smokes. Depends on your set up, but this works in certain conditions super well. You can get the large vent sized magnets at a hardware store.
posted by OlivesAndTurkishCoffee at 7:55 PM on July 2

We got one of the ones recommended by malthusan. It hasn't completely solved the problem because I don't think my child is using it optimally, but it has certainly abated the problem. Thanks for the suggestions!
posted by ubiquity at 7:10 AM on July 30 [1 favorite]

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