Colorado: City Council Attempts to Keep Denver From Smelling Like Weed

In response to citizens who believe Denver is beginning to smell too much like marijuana, the City Council has approved a revamped ordinance intended to strengthen the municipality’s policy on odor management. The new rules, which were approved on Monday in a unanimous vote of 13 to 0, would force commercial pot growers all over the city to invest in better methods for preventing the smell of weed from infiltrating the olfaction of everyday people.

This move is all part of the council’s recent effort to impose constraints on the cannabis industry that would prevent the city from becoming overly saturated with cultivation operations and dispensaries. Last week, the council supported a proposal that would prevent the number of pot shops operating throughout the city from expanding beyond the current size. 

The latest action is considered phase two of Denver’s plans to get a leash around the neck of legal weed. At face value, it is an attempt to appease the close to 100 odor complaints the state Department of Environmental Health says it has received every year since retail pot sales were launched in 2014. 

Under the new ordinance, business owners and their employees would be added to the list of people allowed to submit formal complaints against pot growers and other manufactures for releasing offensive odors. Once the city has received five complaints against a facility within a span of 30 days, a formal inspection would then be conducted to determine whether the business is in compliance with the law.

One of the most positive aspects of the upgraded ordinance is that it would give marijuana operations an opportunity to work with the city on odor control issues. Commercial pot growers would be required to submit odor management strategies to environmental officials that explain the potential risk for powerful smells and the combat tactics they intend to use to keep the smell of their operations as pleasant as possible.

This could force cannabis producers that have not yet invested in odor mitigation systems to shell out some cash.

However, Greg Thomas, a spokesperson for the Department of Environmental Health, recently told CBS News that the agency estimates that more than half of the cannabis cultivators operating in Denver already have air filtration devices in place that keep odors to a minimum. The goal, he says, is to get the other half of the businesses to install these types of units in order to keep the industry on the same page.

Although some lawmakers questioned whether the ordinance would actually be effective in eliminating odors, Thomas says that regardless of how strict the rules are for preventing overly offensive smells from wafting into the community, there is just no way to completely prevent the smell of weed.

"I would caution people to be realistic," said Thomas. "It doesn't mean that there will be zero odors."

The ordinance, which would also apply to other businesses from pet food manufactures to sewage treatment plants, must now go before a special health department board for final approval. Reports indicate that the new rules could take effect by the end of 2016.


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