Recreational cannabis is legal in Denver, Colorado, but folks are still feeling a little bit iffy about its sudden visible, and potentially sniffable, presence. The Denver police are now using an instrument called the “Nasal Ranger” (yes, that’s really what it is called), to measure and track the scent of pot in order to better enforce laws regarding smell complaints. They began using the tool fairly recently, purportedly after pot-related odor complaints more than doubled. Doubling sounds like a lot, right?
Oh wait, except that the numbers were pretty negligible to begin with.
In a city of around 634,000 people, there were 98 smell complaints in 2010, seven involved weed. In 2012, there were 288 complaints, with sixteen having to do with marihuana. While that’s an increase overall, complaints about pot actually decreased by about 1.5%, and this was all prior to the legalization of pot for recreational use. In 2013 (up until September 20th), they recorded 85 complaints, eleven of which were attributed to marijuana, a slight increase since 2010, but the city isn’t exactly being hot-boxed. And let’s be honest, at least some of those complaints were made by anti-pot tattle-tales and buttinskies. I only know a few Denverites, but none I’ve spoken to have complained of a sudden pervasive skunky smog enveloping the Mile-High City.
I looked up the Nasal Ranger, attempting to find a price, but apparently you have to request a quote, which is far too much work for an (cough) groggy young woman like myself. It sounds to me like the police department bought an expensive-ass toy in order to assuage some stuffy reactionaries. In all fairness, the Nasal Ranger actually seems like a pretty tame measure when you learn there are people in Denver attempting to pass laws making the very smell of pot punishable by up to $999 or up to a year in jail.
And at least the Nasal Ranger uses measurable data. That way, they can punish only the truly egregious odor levels—smells most likely produced by a dispensary or farm, not personal use. And at most, it’s a $2,000 fine, nothing completely outrageous. The more potentially unjust part is the provision declaring that five household complaints in a 12 hour period constitutes a violation. That could so easily abused by a few vindictive, lying, busybody neighbors.
On some level, I sympathize with a fear of overpowering smells. I grew up next to a donut factory that ran the ovens at 5 am, right when I was driving to my awful job as a hotel maid. I used love the smell of donuts, but after living in a cloying corn syrup fog for a year, I can now only stand the aroma when the odd donut craving hits me. Of course, now I live in a West Indian neighborhood, so guess what my street smells like in the summer heat? Barbecue, you racists! (Seriously, 95 degrees and a smoker full of jerk chicken in front of every brownstone.)