If there is one thing you need to understand about the American judicial system, it is that everyone has a bias. Despite the fact that judges are meant to be impartial and make decisions based on a strict interpretation of the law, the system doesn’t actually work that way. You can always tell the bias of a judge based on their interpretation and rulings handed down in court. The recent case of a Colorado marijuana business, who was sued for ‘offensive smells’ proves this point.
Earlier this year, a couple who owns over 100 acres of land adjacent to a marijuana grow outside Colorado Springs filed suit due to the overwhelming offensive odor coming from the facility. They also alleged that construction on the site is a visual reminder that they own land next to an organization violating the RICO act. That’s right, the lawsuit against the facility claims that the company is running a federally illegal grow operation and should be shut down, despite its valid licensing.
The kicker in this story is that the residents of the land, aren’t actually residents. They live elsewhere and only visit the land sometimes, mostly on vacations and weekends. This is a simple case of a rich guy who hates marijuana and is going to do everything he can to force the company out of business. The initial suit was a preliminary suit, to see if the judge would allow a case to go forward. The panel of US district judges decided to allow a law suit to proceed, however, the results of similar law suits are mixed.
The reality is that if you are filing a lawsuit over plant smells, you are really talking about terpenes. Terpenes are found in every plant, especially in flowers, fruits and vegetables. Anyone who has ever strolled past the Denver Botanical Gardens knows that the flowers on display contain the same compounds that emit the odor from marijuana. Of all of the million dollar houses surrounding the gardens, no one has ever sued them for being offensive. The blatant subjective nature of the case then becomes obvious and one doesn’t need to be a rocket scientist to realize that this case has nothing to do with smell.
To make a comparison, let’s look at the case of the Sriracha chili sauce factory case from 2013. Residents living near the factory of that sweet and spicy chili sauce began to complain about headaches and spicy smells coming from the facility. There was a real problem, and neighbors were getting sick. Despite the slam dunk case put forth by the plaintiffs, the judge ultimately decided that there was no scientific evidence to support the claims that the ingredients being used contributed to the residents illnesses. Sriracha agreed to better insulate the building and the suit was dropped, but the implications are far reaching.
Having a precedent already established, the plaintiffs will need to prove that the odors coming from the marijuana facility have caused undue harm to the level that the business should be shuttered and they be compensated for their inconvenience. This will never happen. Unfortunately for the plaintiffs, they don’t understand the science behind the smell of marijuana to realize they don’t have a legal case, regardless of what the US District court concluded. It is scary when people like the plaintiff in this case, and the judges who passed down a decision, obviously don’t understand the science well enough to be able to make a valid decision. Cases like this will continue to pop-up, and will ultimately be dismissed, or result in slight changes to the law. Anything else would be an exercise in ignorance.
Cory Hughes is a former police officer turned cannabis cultivator and writer. After years of being on the wrong side of the law, Cory decided to hang up his badge and gun and move into an industry that truly has the potential of bringing people together. He has been an active part of the Colorado cannabis culture and has worked as a horticulturist in dozens of licensed grow operations. Cory now looks to share his knowledge of cultivation and horticulture with the world.