A Canadian Town Just Proposed a New Law to Ban the Dank Smell of Weed
West Nipissing’s town council is considering a new rule that would outlaw our favorite flower’s aroma in residential areas.
Published on May 25, 2020

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A town in Ontario is examining a potential bylaw that would regulate the “skunky” or “gassy” smell of cannabis as a “nuisance.” 

Last Tuesday, the West Nipissing Council requested that municipal staff look into the possibility of a local ordinance that would effectively outlaw the smell of weed in residential areas. Four cannabis cultivation facilities operate near West Nipissing, which prompted complaints from some of the area’s residents.

“I was called at 9:30 at night to get out and smell it, and I didn’t have to,” Councillor Lise Senecal said during a council teleconference, CBC reported. “I just opened the window, and I think I got a buzz.”

Hopefully, Senecal’s last comment was a joke. Even the most novice, lightweight toker can’t get high just from whiffing some weed. 

"I'm a firm believer that everyone has their rights,” Senecal continued. “I mean, I have the right to drink beer, but I don't have the right to throw the can of beer at the neighbor or make a party at all times of day or night.”

Councillor Chris Fisher agreed with Senecal that he also found the smell of cannabis highly offensive, but stopped short of supporting a bylaw that would restrict where weed could be allowed within the town limits. 

“It’s a little bit dangerous to regulate smells — there’s no scale,” Fisher said, according to the North Bay Nugget. “If cannabis can’t smell, does that mean we have to shut down the sewage plant?”

The council voted 8-1 to examine the legality of implementing an odor-related bylaw for cannabis grows.

Councillor Jeremy Senguin was the only council member to vote against the bylaw examination. 

“Right now, we’re questioning the smell of the growth, which only lasts a few weeks, through budding, flowering, and curing,” Senguin said after the meeting. “This is the equivalent of what Verner [located in Seguin’s Ward 7] gets when the manure is spread, and we have to shut our windows or stop putting clothes on the line.”

Last week’s teleconference wasn’t the first time this proposed bylaw came up, either. In February, the West Nipissing Council discussed the issue, but put it on hold until the local public health department could provide feedback on the proposal. Hamilton, Ontario approved a bylaw in April that bans weed smells coming from unlicensed grows.

Even though Canada federally legalized recreational cannabis in 2018, West Nipissing is known for its conservative approach to weed. It’s one of the few municipalities in Canada where pot smoking is banned in public, though tobacco smoking is not. According to Health Canada, deaths related to heavy tobacco use account for 17 percent of all deaths in the Great white North, at a rate of 100 deaths per day. 

Meanwhile, in the US, where hemp is federally legal but recreational cannabis is not, the smell of cannabis is also a contentious issue. In February, a town in medical-only Maryland debated a bill that would restrict smells coming from hemp farms. Additionally, cannabis odors became so prevalent in a Michigan town this year that it invested in a fancy odor-detecting device to help regulators pinpoint where the smells were coming from.

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Randy Robinson
Based in Denver, Randy studied cannabinoid science while getting a degree in molecular biology at the University of Colorado. When not writing about cannabis, science, politics, or LGBT issues, they can be found exploring nature somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. Catch Randy on Twitter and Instagram @randieseljay
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