Oooh oooh that smell — can’t you smell that smell? Ok, we couldn’t resist trotting out the oft-repeated Lynyrd Skynyrd lyric. In all seriousness though, a recent Washtenaw County, Michigan court ruling discussing marijuana odor gives us an opportunity to remind canna businesses and home-growers alike to keep their smells to themselves.
Neighbors had been complaining of an intense smell of marijuana coming from the Ypsilanti home of Michael Engle and Deborah Klobuchar for years. Eventually the township took up the neighbors’ cause, arguing that the odor being pumped from the Engle-Klobucher home’s basement violated the township’s noxious fumes zoning ordinance, which prohibits creating “offensive odors” in any zone. Various neighbors testified that they suffered headaches, cough, and occasional vomiting as a result of the stink. That testimony was enough to convince Judge Archie Brown, and he ordered Engle and Kloblucher to stop growing medical marijuana in their basement.
Though this case has attracted little interest outside Michigan, anyone who grows marijuana in their home or owns a marijuana business should pay attention. The judgment against Engle and Kloblucher was based on a local public nuisance ordinance, but nuisance (the idea that one’s use of his property shouldn’t interfere with a neighbor’s enjoyment of his own) is a broadly accepted tenet of tort law, and very likely applies in your city/state too. Even if your city or area does not have a public nuisance ordinance, common (case) law probably will provide a remedy for your neighbors against you. You don’t want to end up shut down like Engle and Kloblucher.
Though our job as cannabis business lawyers is to assist our clients in complying with state and local laws regulating marijuana, we also remind them that they also must follow the same rules that apply to every kind of business (see Now That You Are a Real (Pot) Business). This includes being a good neighbor and community member. When it comes to the aroma of your herb, be sure to install good ventilation and filtration systems, and take complaints seriously.