Pot smells account for only 15 percent of odor complaints in Denver

Keep Westword Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Denver and help keep the future of Westword free.

It's been called the "sniff-test" proposal, "prudey-pants" ordinance and the Gladys Kravitz rule, in honor of that nosy neighbor from Bewitched. And even though Denver City Council, which faces considerable opposition from residents who don't want the city interfering with what happens on their private property, dialed down the initial proposal to allow pot consumption in back yards (but not on front porches), civil libertarians still think it stinks. So the measure is being revised yet again, and council will consider another draft next Tuesday.

The initial proposal suggested last month by councilman Chris Nevitt would have prohibited even the smell of pot coming from private property -- subjecting violators to hefty fines and criminal charges that could have resulted in up to a year in jail. Now, in the face of continued criticism -- after all, Colorado voters legalized recreational marijuana with the passage of Amendment 64 last year, and Denverites just voted to tax sales of the stuff yesterday -- Nevitt is retooling the measure again in advance of the November 12 meeting.

In the meantime, consider this: According to information that the Denver Department of Environmental Health shared at the Monday council meeting, this city's residents are bothered by a lot worse odors than marijuana. In 2010, the DEH collected 98 total odor complaints -- seven involving marijuana. In 2011, it heard 118, with eight involving marijuana. In 2012, Denver residents apparently had much more sensitive noses, making 288 complaints to the department, DEH head Doug Linkhart told councilmembers Monday -- but only sixteen involved marijuana. And through September 20 of this year, there have been 85 complaints made, with just eleven involving marijuana.

If pot isn't the big problem, what is?

In 2012, the biggest concerns of Denver residents were apparently the "obnoxious" smell coming from wood-fired pizza ovens at Il Vicino on Old South Gaylord wafting over sensitive noses in East Washington Park, and the odor of porky products being created at Kasel, the pig-ear factory, as Westword reported in a December 2012 cover story. The factory's owner sued the complaining neighbors, but a judge threw out that case.

According to DEH records, other 2012 complaints involved a couple of port-o-potties, a sewer, Subway sandwiches, a roofing project, alleys and that eternal favorite, the Purina factory. Only a handful involved grow operations or dispensaries.

In fact, over the last two years, pot accounted for only 15 percent of the total odor complaints lodged with the city. There could well be more vegans complaining about smelling barbecue.


Continue to read the 2008 statute that currently governs this city's sense of smell: Here's Sec. 4-10 of the Denver City Charter, as amended in 2008, to deal with the Nuisance issue:

(a) It shall be unlawful for any person to emit air contaminants that constitute a nuisance as directed in section 4.2.

(b) It shall be an unlawful nuisance for any person to cause or permit the emission of odorous air contaminants from any source so as to result in detectable odors that leave the premises upon which they originated and interfere with the reasonable and comfortable use and enjoyment of property. Upon either or both of the following occurences, any odor will be deemed to interfere with reasonable and comfortable use and enjoyment of property

(1) If odorous contaminantsts are detected when one (1) volume of the odorous air has been diluted with seven (7) or more volumes of odor-free air, as measured by any instrument, device or method designated by the Colorado Air Polution Control Division to be used in the determination of the intensity of an odor and in the enforcement of Colorado Air Quality Control Commission Regulation 2.

(2) When the department receives five (5) or more complaints from individuals representing separate households within the city within a 12-hour period relating to a single odor description, and the department verifies the sources of the odor. To be considered an odor complaint, the department must have a record of it, which must include the

a. name, address and phone number of complainant b. Time and date of call c. Description of odor nuisance, including estimated location or source of complaint, and if possible, prevailing wind or weather conditions observed.

(3) The department must use reasonable efforts to investigate all complaints to verify the source of the odor.

(c) It is an affirmative defense to a violation of the odorous air contaminant standard that the violation was caused by an upset condition or breakdown of a device, facility, or process that could not have been reasonably anticipated or prevented; the facility owner or operator took immediate action to eliminate the upset condition and, if necessary, repair all equipment and devices that caused or contributed to the upset condition or breakdown; the facility owner or operator notified the department about the upset condition or breakdown within eight (8) hours of its occurrence, and the facility owner or operator provided written detailed information describing the upset condition or breakdown and identifying the measures taken to correct it within three (3) working days of the occurrence.

(d) Rodeos, stock shows, tarring operations and other similar temporary events are exempt from this section.

In other words, hold your horses, Gladys....

From our archives: "Five Colorado places that smell worse than the pot smoker next door."

Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.


Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.