Legal Marijuana Colorado: Denver’s Pot Smell Hangs Heavy, But ‘You Get Used To It’

  on
  • pot3
    A woman smokes marijuana during the 4/20 Rally at the Civic Center in Denver, Colorado, April 20, 2014. Thousands of marijuana enthusiasts gathered in Colorado for an annual celebration of cannabis culture with rallies, concerts and trade shows.
  • pot4
    Grower Steve Jenkins checks out his marijuana plants at the Botanacare marijuana store ahead of their grand opening on New Year's day in Northglenn, Colorado December 31, 2013. The world's first state-licensed marijuana retailers, catering to Colorado's newly legal recreational market for pot, stocked their shelves ahead of their January 1, 2014, grand opening that supporters and detractors alike saw as a turning point in America's drug culture.
  • pot2
    A fully budded marijuana plant ready for trimming is seen at the Botanacare marijuana store in Northglenn, Colorado December 31, 2013.
1 of 3

Blue skies, tall mountains and -- the pungent scent of marijuana? Now that the pot industry in Colorado has gone mainstream, so has the odor. The skunky smell wafts from dozens of newly-opened, state-licensed indoor growing facilities in Denver and other cities, and because state odor laws allow a certain level of stench, there’s not much residents can do about it.

"You do have people who just object to the whole idea," Ben Siller, a code enforcement officer with the Department of Environmental Health in Denver, told USA Today. “[The smell] is discernible. It's there, but you get used to it, just like any odor."

About 30 percent of the smell complaints Denver’s code enforcement office receives are about marijuana, USA Today reports. The department received 13 odor complaints related to pot between Jan. 1 and the end of March, according to the Denver Post. Then there are the countless everyday encounters with marijuana odors, like one Colorado Springs resident who approached her neighbor after her kids enquired about the “awful smell” coming from the apartment below.  

"I don't think anyone realized that this was going to be an issue," Susan Hilderbrand, a resident of a small Fremont County town called Penrose who is with a group called Penrose Concerned Citizens, told KKTV in February. "And that's our main thrust with what we are trying to do here: to make people aware. We would like to see it regulated here, but it needs to be regulated elsewhere."

Some business owners have even begun to refuse service to clients who reek of pot. A barber shop in Greeley, Colorado, a city about 50 miles northeast of Denver, started turning customers away who smelled like marijuana smoke. A sign outside the shop read, "Please do not come in if you smell like marijuana, there are families with kids who don't want to smell it. This is a business not your house, thank you,” according to USA Today.

The owner was well within his rights to post the sign. "Business owners absolutely have the right to refuse service to someone who has been smoking pot, is drunk, or for any other reason as long as it's not an unlawful or unconstitutional reason such as race, religion or gender," Denver lawyer Scott Robinson told USA Today.

Just because residents may not like the smell, that does not mean growers, smokers or sellers are breaking any laws. Like many other manufacturing operations or farms, odors are just part of the industry. Before the legal era of pot, marijuana growers went to great lengths to keep odors from escaping their facilities lest someone tip off the authorities, but now that there is a legal market for marijuana, growers are less inclined to go the extra mile to filter the smell.

"If need be, we'll go out and contact the party, let them know that a complaint has been filed even though there is not a violation and we'll let them know that perhaps there's some way they can work it out," Siller told NPR in November. 

Join the Discussion