California Pot Farms Stink (Literally), Say Neighbors

Officials overseeing cannabis implementation are having to deal with residents’ complaints that the smell from marijuana operations is overwhelming.

2 minute read

December 26, 2018, 11:00 AM PST

By Camille Fink

Indoor Grow Room

SEASTOCK / Shutterstock

Recreational cannabis has been legal in California since January, but one part of implementation and regulation is proving challenging. In counties throughout the state, residents describe the smells emanating from commercial operations as something akin to skunk, rotting lemons, and sulfur, reports Thomas Fuller:

"It’s as if a skunk, or multiple skunks in a family, were living under our house," said Grace Guthrie, whose home sits on the site of a former apple orchard outside the town of Sebastopol. Her neighbors grow pot commercially. "It doesn’t dissipate," Ms. Guthrie said. "It’s beyond anything you would imagine."

Cannabis growers say that smells are an expected part of agricultural operations, but municipalities were not prepared for odor to be a primary issue related to marijuana production. "Of the more than 730 complaints Sonoma County has received about cannabis this year, around 65 percent are related to odor, according to Tim Ricard, the county’s cannabis program manager," says Fuller.

Residents in Sonoma County are calling for a ban on cannabis operations; Mendocino County has established zones where it is prohibited. Odor-control systems are another strategy for dealing with the stink, but this equipment is expensive and many operators cannot afford it.

Also, part of the problem for local officials is developing a standard for smells, which can be subjective and hard to quantify. Colorado, which legalized cannabis in 2014, uses a device called the Nasal Ranger to measure odor levels. California, however, has yet to adopt this technology.

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