Medical marijuana businesses, including grow operations and dispensaries, can now be found in many communities throughout Colorado. The establishment and proliferation of such businesses has presented a number of issues for their neighbors.
One issue: marijuana stinks. It has a very strong odor, even before it is smoked.
Odor emanating from medical marijuana businesses has led to complaints from neighbors, who are typically other businesses. These businesses and their customers may find the strong marijuana smell that periodically permeates their neighborhoods offensive, or simply overwhelming. The question then becomes how to deal with the problem.
Colorado’s Medical Marijuana Code, C.R.S. § 12-43.3-101 et seq. (the “Code”) does not directly address or regulate odors coming from medical marijuana businesses, and it does not appear that the proposed state regulations to implement Code will address odors either.
Accordingly, if neighbors have complaints about odors emanating from medical marijuana businesses, they will either have to hope that local regulation addresses the issue, or be resigned to remedies under the law of nuisance.
The Boulder Daily Camera recently ran an article addressing the City of Boulder’s regulation of odors from medical marijuana businesses. There have apparently been a number of complaints of wafting smells of marijuana, and the City is investigating.
Under Boulder’s medical marijuana regulations, “[a] medical marijuana business shall be properly ventilated to filter the odor from marijuana so that the odor cannot be detected by a person with a normal sense of smell at the exterior of the medical marijuana business or at any adjoining use or property.” Boulder Municipal Code, § 6-14-8(h). Violations can result in a loss of a license, and/or a fine of up to $1,000 per violation.
According to the Daily Camera, it is difficult for medical marijuana businesses to comply with the requirement, and expensive equipment is needed to mitigate odors. Medical marijuana businesses have also complained that the requirement is unfair, given that a great many other businesses are allowed to let odors leave their properties without consequence. (Walking past a pizza parlor, you can often smell the umistakable mix of baking bread and garlic). However, it appears that the City is intent on trying to enforce its requirement. As indicated, businesses have a strong incentive to comply, as they risk having their businesses shut down if they do not.
Given Boulder’s odor regulation, neighbors of medical marijuana businesses in Boulder are probably far better off than those in other local jurisdictions that do not have similar requirements. Without a code provision addressing odors, complaining neighbors would likely only have remedies in the law of nuisance. While a nuisance suit could result in an injunction, thus cutting off the problem, bringing such a suit would be quite expensive and time consuming for the complaining neighbor. In contrast, pursuing relief through local code enforcement would likely solve the problem more quickly, and would be carried out primarily at the expense of the local government.
Colorado’s new licensing scheme for medical marijuana businesses under the Code goes into effect on July 1, 2011. Local jurisdictions throughout Colorado are still in the process of updating their regulations to conform to this dual state/local licensing system. As they do, it will be interesting to see if other jurisdictions will attempt to regulate odors as Boulder has.