On the sunny day in October, Mike Arnold swings open the door to his barn storehouse outside Eugene, Oregon, and takes a big whiff. The smell hits him immediately, a sweet and skunky wall of cool air. “Smells like money,” Arnold says in the Missouri drawl, gazing out at row after row of makeshift wood-and-mesh shelving, where 12,000 pounds of marijuana were lying out to dry.
Following close behind, in colorful glasses as well as a tweed jacket, is the cannabis engineering virtuoso accountable for keeping that pungent odor safely inside the confines of the building: 39-year-old Daniel Gustafik. Gustafik has been building out pot grow rooms for 25 years, designing novel solutions for everything from irrigation to lighting to humidity control in hidden sub-basements and on off-grid homesteads well before anyone could even conceive of Bob Marley-branded weed sold openly in sleek boutiques. He and his company, Hybrid Tech, are now regarded as being the best within the game when it comes to putting together industrial-scale legal cannabis operations. Before four years, they’ve completed over a hundred projects in 37 states and 2 countries.
Even as marijuana air quality plan becomes increasingly mainstream, not many are feeling chill about legalization. Pot reeks, and pot being grown or processed at commercial scale reeks even more. Some states and municipalities have included specifications about odor control in their medical and recreational marijuana regulations.
But cannabis’s federally illegal status creates all sorts of thorny problems. Last June, a 10th-circuit court in Colorado decided that a family who complained about the “noxious odors” coming from a cannabis venture next door had sufficient grounds to argue the aroma had hurt their house values, and may therefore sue for triple damages under federal racketeering law. The ruling sent shockwaves from the legal weed industry, triggering similar lawsuits in Oregon and Massachusetts, and potentially establishing a precedent by which private citizens can use federal law to topple locally licensed pot businesses. That means that marijuana’s distinctive stink could sometimes be worse for that legalization movement than anything Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been doing, as well as the continued success of state-legal weed is influenced by rigorous odor-proofing.
Take Arnold’s cavernous drying barn, nestled among rolling hills and maple trees. This, Gustafik says, is his magnum olfactory opus: a 5,000 square foot facility, outfitted in a mere 21 days, and operating in a county dmdwjs the strictest marijuana scent control rules on the planet. Before Oregon legalized recreational weed, a significantly looser medical cannabis law had been in place for many years, attracting inconsiderate growers familiar with the black market. The noise, traffic and stink annoyed locals who, subsequently, annoyed officials with their complaints. Then when it came time to regulate adult use, some counties preemptively took a hard line. At a meeting to determine which these rules would look like in Clackamas County, one community member compared the smell to “skunk dipped in turpentine and gym socks.” As a result, the Clackamas ordinance ultimately specified from the angle of exhaust vents to the strength of the fans utilized to circulate air. Lane County, where Arnold’s barn is located, ultimately decided to utilize the same language inside their ordinance.