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.