D.C. man can't smoke in own home due to temporary, precedent-setting court order

Edwin Gray smokes outside his Northeast D.C. home. (WJLA photo)

WASHINGTON (WJLA) – Under D.C.'s new law, anyone can smoke pot in their home. But a temporary decision by a Superior Court judge means one man in the District can't light up anything at his home—including pot and cigarettes. The 7 On Your Side I-Team found the decision could also impact you.

Edwin Gray loves a cigarette to relax, but now he's got to smoke them outside.

"You want me to stop what I've been doing in my house, all my life,” he said.

Gray is not quitting cold turkey by choice. Instead, it's by a temporary order of the court that Gray can no longer light up in the Northeast D.C. home that's been owned by his family for 50 years.

"We were floored," said Gray's sister, Mozella Johnson.

Johnson says she was shocked a lawsuit filed by neighbors who moved in last year could now dictate what the family can do inside its home.

D.C. real estate attorney and Washington Post columnist Benny Kass was also surprised to learn a judge recently issued a temporary injunction in the civil lawsuit filed by Gray and Johnson's neighbors. Court filings show the couple that moved in next door has one child and another on the way. They claim they're being harmed by smoke they say sneaks into their home through a hole in the basement.

"I think it’s an excellent precedent to start, so people can realize you can't just ignore your neighbor," Kass said. "Your home is no longer your castle."

But with no moat and only shared walls in many D.C. homes, the habits of your neighbor can rise to what Kass calls a private nuisance. A judge agreed in a decision last week, saying in the injunction that Johnson, Gray and any guests or family cannot smoke cigarettes, cigars or marijuana in their home—even if it's legal in the city where they live.

"If this judge has done this, who will be next? What other neighbor will be next?" Johnson asked.

She and her brother are vowing to continue fighting. Kass believes others may fight as well, with this decision setting precedent for public nuisances in the District.

"I think this is going to open the door to a lot of thinking, a lot of cases," Kass said. "I gotta believe once this comes out there's going to be 100 cases filed in Superior Court tomorrow."

The couple suing Johnson and Gray declined 7 On Your Side’s request for an interview. Court filings and a statement they supplied to ABC7 say they tried to work with Johnson and Gray, but had to file suit when mediation attempts failed. In addition to the injunction, their lawsuit asks for $500,000 in damages. The case is ongoing.

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