How Loud Is Too Loud? Marijuana Smell-O-Scope in Colorado

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Recreational marijuana is legal in Colorado. But that doesn’t mean residents want the air to smell like a pot rally. Denver is getting more calls to enforce an odor ordinance that can impose a buzz-killing fine on violators. To find them, the city relies on a device called the Nasal Ranger.

And that’s where licensed smell investigator Ben Siller comes in. A member of Denver’s Department of Environmental Health, he’s trained to use an olfactometer to determine if people are breaking laws that protect the purity of Denver’s air.

Siller responds to citizens’ odor complaints — an increasing number of which are tied to the rise of odiferous marijuana grow facilities. A recent Denver Post story about him began this way:

“Ben Siller looked ridiculous on a recent afternoon, standing on a downtown Denver street corner with a giant device clamped to his face sniffing the air for odorous evidence of marijuana.”

The Nasal Ranger is a cone-shaped device resembling a megaphone that’s made by St. Croix Sensory, a company based in Minnesota. It samples the air to help an operator detect the presence and strength of odors. As others have noted, the device looks like a scaled-down and streamlined version of the Smell-O-Scope created by Professor Farnsworth on the TV series Futurama.

In Denver, the scent of marijuana would have to be very strong — exceeding a level of detection when one volume of the scented air is combined with seven volumes of clean air — to trigger a formal response and possible fine.

Siller tells the Post that it’s been nearly 20 years since anyone broke that threshold. A violation could bring a fine of up to $2,000, Denver’s ABC 7 News reported this summer.

Many expect Siller and his colleagues to get more calls as Colorado’s pot industry continues to mature. The state’s first stores selling marijuana for recreational use are scheduled to open in January.

 

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