‘Dead Skunk’ Stench From Marijuana Farms Outrages Californians

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CARPINTERIA, Calif. — They call it fresh skunk, the odor cloud or sometimes just the stink.

Mike Wondolowski often finds himself in the middle of it. He may be on the chaise longue on his patio, at his computer in the house, or tending to his orange and lemon trees in the garden when the powerful, nauseating stench descends on him.

Mr. Wondolowski lives a half-mile away from greenhouses that were originally built to grow daisies and chrysanthemums but now house thousands of marijuana plants, part of a booming — and pungent — business seeking to cash in on recreational cannabis, which has been legal in California since January.

“If someone is saying, ‘Is it really that bad?’ I’ll go find a bunch of skunks and every evening I’ll put them outside your window,” Mr. Wondolowski said. “It’s just brutal.”

When Californians voted to legalize recreational marijuana in 2016, there were debates about driving under the influence and keeping it away from children. But lawmakers did not anticipate the uproar that would be generated by the funk of millions of flowering cannabis plants.

As a result of the stench, residents in Sonoma County, north of San Francisco, are suing to ban cannabis operations from their neighborhoods. Mendocino County, farther north, recently created zones banning cannabis cultivation — the sheriff’s deputy there says the stink is the No. 1 complaint.

Ms. Rigby, the superintendent, did not return phone calls or email requesting comment.

In Sonoma County, hearings on cannabis ordinances at the board of supervisors overflow with representatives from the cannabis industry, who wear green, and angry residents, who wear red.

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.

“There’s been a tremendous amount of tension in the community,” said Ms. Hopkins, the Sonoma supervisor. “If I had to name an ice-cream flavor for cannabis implementation it would definitely be rocky road.”

Cannabis executives recognize that pot grows can be odorous, but say their industry is no different from others that produce smells.

Dennis Hunter, right, a co-founder of CannaCraft, a marijuana business in Santa Rosa in Sonoma County, watching Matt Kulczycki filling a mold with cannabis-infused dark chocolate.CreditJim Wilson/The New York Times
Dennis Hunter, right, a co-founder of CannaCraft, a marijuana business in Santa Rosa in Sonoma County, watching Matt Kulczycki filling a mold with cannabis-infused dark chocolate.CreditJim Wilson/The New York Times

“You have a smell issue that sometimes can’t be completely mitigated,” said Dennis Hunter, a co-founder of CannaCraft, a large marijuana business based in Santa Rosa in Sonoma County. “But we have dairy farms here in the area or crush season for the vineyards — there’s agricultural crops, and a lot of them have smells.”

Britt Christiansen, a registered nurse who lives among the dairy farms of Sonoma County, acknowledges that her neighborhood smells of manure, known locally as the Sonoma aroma.

But she says she made the choice to live next to a dairy farm and prefers that smell to the odor that drifted over from the marijuana farm next door to her house.

“We opened the door and the smell kicked us in the face,” Ms. Christiansen said. Her neighbors banded together in October and sued the operators of the pot business; the case is ongoing.

One problem for local governments trying to legislate cannabis odors is that there is no objective standard for smells. A company in Minnesota, St. Croix Sensory, has developed a device called the Nasal Ranger, which looks like a cross between a hair dryer and a radar gun. Users place the instrument on their nose and turn a filter dial to rate the potency on a numerical scale. Charles McGinley, the inventor of the device, says a Level 7 is the equivalent of “sniffing someone’s armpit without the deodorant — or maybe someone’s feet — a nuisance certainly.”

Lawmakers did not anticipate the uproar that would be generated by the funk of millions of flowering cannabis plants.CreditJim Wilson/The New York Times
Lawmakers did not anticipate the uproar that would be generated by the funk of millions of flowering cannabis plants.CreditJim Wilson/The New York Times

A Level 4, he said, is the equivalent of a neighbor’s freshly cut grass. “It could still be a nuisance, but it wouldn’t drive you away from your front porch,” Mr. McGinley said.

Standing next to a flowering cannabis bud, the smell would easily be a Level 7, Mr. McGinley said.

The Nasal Ranger is in use in Colorado, the first state to legalize recreational marijuana, but California counties and cities are still struggling with the notion that smells are subjective.

Ever-Bloom in Carpinteria is one of a number of marijuana businesses that have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars to mitigate the stink. Two previous systems failed, but the current one, modeled on devices used to mask the smell of garbage dumps, sprays a curtain of vapor around the perimeter of the greenhouses. The vapor, which is made up of essential oils, gives off a menthol smell resembling Bengay.

Dennis Bozanich, a Santa Barbara County official charged with cannabis implementation who has become known as the cannabis czar, says the essential oil odor control has been largely successful. But not every grower can afford to install it.

On weekends, Mr. Bozanich becomes a cannabis odor sleuth, riding his bicycle through Carpinteria sniffing the air for pot plants. He recently drove through the area with a reporter, rolling down the windows on a stretch of road with cannabis greenhouses. He slowed the car and puzzled over where a cannabis odor was coming from.

“I’ve got one stinky location right here and I can’t quite figure it out,” he said.

His description of the stink?

“Dead skunk.”

 

 

Source – https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/19/us/california-marijuana-stink.html

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