What About That Marijuana Smell?

"Ooh, that smell. Can’t you smell that smell?" ~ Lynyrd Skynyrd

For the Southern rock group’s famous tune, it was the "smell of death."

But in more and more north state neighborhoods, "that smell" is marijuana plants in the fall.
The plant provides needed medicine for some, relaxation and pleasure for others, and a source of aggravation for still others who don’t like its powerful scent just before harvest.

The odor issue has surfaced many times in the past few months, and was the subject of a recent Garden Tract neighborhood meeting in Redding. Speaking at the meeting was city code enforcement expert Debra Wright, who said she responded to an average of three gardens a week over the past two months — many because of smell complaints.


Marijuana plants growing outdoors.

In the Garden Tract, a woman said she lost nearly two months’ of time she would have spent outside because of the powerful "skunky" smell of a neighbor’s grow.

"It was beyond-belief aggravating," the woman said, preferring not to be named for this piece. "It was the best time of year and I had to stay inside with my windows and doors shut. I just don’t think it should be allowed in the city when people have such tight lots."

The woman said she knows some need marijuana and even took Marinol herself when she was undergoing chemotherapy treatments. But she says she could smell the plants all the way down the block at times and literally was looking for skunks before discovering the true origin of the smell.

"When my friends found out it was marijuana, everybody was laughing at me," she said. "But I don’t want to go through another year like that."

By now, most outdoor marijuana plants have already been harvested. Growers began pulling their plants in prior to the first series of robust rains that hit the region.

Still, it’s an issue that looms over future years and something that evades an easy solution, regardless of the failing of Prop 19 in California for full legalization. Redding Senior City Planner Kent Manuel, speaking at the Garden Tract meeting, reviewed Redding’s current regulations about medical marijuana for the neighbors.

"We have noise meters, but unfortunately we don’t have smell meters," Manuel said.

Under current city regulations, a patient with a medical marijuana recommendation may grow pot within a 100-square-foot canopy space. However, that can expand to 300 square feet if a resident grows for a maximum of three people with legal recommendations on the property.

There are also limits on height (15 feet) and proximity to a neighbor’s home (must be at least 30 feet away). But a grower could be well under the limits and the smell could still dominate the area.

One Redding medical marijuana grower said the issue is difficult, because there are all sorts of smells in neighborhoods that people may or may not like.

"I think it becomes what’s a greater good versus a greater evil," said the grower, who asked to remain anonymous because of past thefts of plants at her property. "We’re talking about something that’s non toxic. I can empathize to a degree (with those who don’t like the smell), but it’s also a matter of having to put up with it for about four weeks a year versus someone maybe not having medicine for a year.

"If you took away their ability to grow and forced them to buy, it could be an undue hardship. If you think about a cancer patient and a year of pain versus having medicine, well, you have to weigh the relative good."
If a grower violates the current city regulations they can be fined, however, it’s likely those fines could be contested under current state law.

Wright said that in general, growers have been largely cooperative when she’s visited them.
Marijuana remains illegal under federal law. However, the Obama administration said it would not enforce power over states that had passed medical marijuana amendments.

In Redding, there are about 18 medical marijuana collectives in business, so plenty of people are still buying cannabis – and perhaps growing as well. The Redding Police Department oversees enforcement on collectives.

The large volume grown this season has sent prices plunging this year, says one Redding medical marijuana grower. Prices have dropped to as low as $800 a pound locally and around $1,500 a pound in Southern California, as the state is flush with harvested marijuana.
"But (in general) the cat’s out of the bag that it’s not the devil weed they said it was," the grower said. "Even those who say it is know that it isn’t."

The ever-changing law makes issues like inspecting and regulating medical marijuana gardens difficult for Redding city code enforcement. Upcoming legislation in the city of Anaheim (which has banned marijuana collectives) and other upcoming cases could shape how cities proceed with the issue.

Wright said she’ll soon be sending out letters that clearly state the city’s current guidelines for marijuana cultivation to about 90 residents.

Another Redding grower said there could be a solution (or at least improvement) in terms of smell in small lot neighborhoods. There are currently strains of marijuana that are much less pungent than the heavily skunky-smelling strains. The less pungent strains are still plenty potent, the grower said.

"If a neighbor complains, that seems to be a reasonable way to go at it," he said.

Jim Dyar is a news, arts and entertainment journalist for A News Cafe and the former arts and entertainment editor for the Record Searchlight’s D.A.T.E. section. Jim is also a songwriter and leader of the Jim Dyar Band. He lives in Redding. E-mail him at jimd.anewscafe@gmail.com .

A News Cafe, founded in Shasta County by Redding, CA journalist Doni Greenberg, is the place for people craving local Northern California news, commentary, food, arts and entertainment. Views and opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of anewscafe.com

is a journalist who focuses on arts, entertainment, music and the outdoors. He is a songwriter and leader of the Jim Dyar Band. He lives in Redding and can be reached at jimd.anewscafe@gmail.com
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31 Responses

  1. Avatar Brandy says:

    I find when my neighbors smoke cigarettes outside it is way more offensive than the smell of marijuana. Can't I ask them to stop smoking, no. You just have to live with it. I would be happy to trade houses, I would take waking up to a skunk than cigs any day!

    • Avatar brandi says:

      smell of pot can get you high, cigs do not. Explain that to parents who have children who play sports and have to live next door to these neighbors, because it's not just the smell of the growth of these plants it's those that smoke it freely next to children.

      • Avatar No More Lies says:

        Although the smell may be unpleasant to some, it most certainly will not get you high. This is misinformation. In order to get high, you would have to have the smoke blown directly in your face. And let's face it – no one is suffering from from someone inches away, blowing pot smoke in their face.

      • Avatar Badger says:

        "smell of pot can get you high"


        That is incorrect.

        I'm curious where you heard that?


        • Avatar gamerjohn says:

          Ever been to a rock concert and not toked up yourself and still been buzzed? There you have it.

        • Avatar wuh? huh? says:

          "Ever been to a rock concert and not toked up yourself and still been buzzed? There you have it."

          Oh brother. More lies.

          Yes I've been to more rock concerts than I can count – I'm a professional musician. And I've smelled plenty of pot in my day.

          No. I never once in my whole career got high without actually smoking it. (That includes being in a room where everyone else is getting high and I chose to abstain.)

        • Avatar Tyrone F. Horneigh, says:


          (We) Don't Need No More Lies – Neil Young

      • Avatar Misinformed says:

        You cant get high off the smell of Marijuana! Whoever told you this, misinformed you. That makes as much sense as saying i got Salmonella or some other bad disease, because i smell the odor of someones dog poop or something like that! I know that makes completely no sense at all, but so is saying you can get high off the smell of a plant!

        As for Cigarettes, you can get Second hand smoke, and die from it, Tons of people died from this.

        How many deaths can you say has to do with Marijuana? None, Not ONE, Zip, Zero Natta!

  2. Avatar SpaMan@TheDancer (Ja says:

    When Lisa and I made the move to Portland last month we decided to rent a small U-Haul trailer to haul those valuable/delicate items.

    We rented the trailer at the U-Haul on Cypress and while going over the paper work and giving the trailer the once over, I lifted the door of the trailer and was greeted with the most pungent smell of marijuana. It freaking reeked!

    I pointed the smell out to the U-Haul employee and his response was pretty lackluster. He explained this was the time of year for stinky U-Haul trailers and they (whoever “they” are) rent the trailers almost non-stop.

    I had a vision of being pulled over somewhere on I5 as the drug sniffing dog was doing back flips while I unloaded my trailer on the side of the road.

    “I swear officer, I ain’t got nothing!”

    • Avatar Royal says:

      I see where your coming from because dogs CAN still smell the odor of drugs after they are long gone. I probably would have picked another Uhaul truck or went to a different Uhaul company. Some cops do not listen to your story all they want is the recognition for finding a big stash of pot Whether you really have it or not!

  3. Avatar Jo giessner says:

    Last Saturday I drove four out of state guests over to Trinidad and Eureka. On 299W over and back we kept smelling "Skunk" but no dead animals by such name on the road. Finally, I explained to them what it really was. They laughed, and said they had heard about Humboldt. I said well yes but we aren't even in Humboldt County yet!

  4. Avatar No More Lies says:

    My buddy lives in Vermont. Whenever I visit him I travel a road which stinks to high heaven of manure for many miles. I simply roll up my windows. And from his house the smell of manure taints the air during the entire spring.

    When I visit my in-laws I travel through an infamous stretch of interstate 95 in New Jersey overgrown with industrial smoke stacks billowing out such a heinous polluting stench it makes my family gag. There is no question that these industries are polluting our air and water.

    Yet nobody is talking about going after these polluters or farmers whose income is dependent on the stink they produce. Let's face it, this uproar is not about the stench – if it was they'd be going after much worse offenders. So why the facade? Because people's fear and hatred of pot is irrational and they want to pretend it's not.

  5. Avatar BillieJeanJones says:

    I used to work with an Indian, or something, that smelled like BO. I was told that his religion, or something, did not allow him to wear deoterent or anything like that. So I had to work next to him. Man that sucked.

    It's not fair to have to smell a smell that you don't want to smell. But, like I was told, find a job somewhere else if it bothers you. I guess it would be, sell your house and move somewhere else if it bothers you, in this case.

    It dosen't seem fair. But thats the way it is.

  6. Avatar Tom says:

    I live in the garden tract and thought too that we had an overabundance of skunks in the neighborhood. I was surprised to hear that it was medical marijuana growing a couple houses down the street. I think that we can put up with the smell for a month or two if it helps people medically. I wish though that the city of Redding could make some money with this, perhaps taxing the sale of marijuana. Just a thought.

  7. Avatar James S Reed says:

    Never fear! The smell of marijuana PLANTS can not get you high, burning some and smelling it (inhaling it) can. Some people like the smell , some don't.

    If it was legal this wouldn't be a problem, because few people would grow their own (you don't see people growing tobacco or making their own beer and wine very often do you/)

  8. Avatar karns says:

    Way to go Jim! You had to go and get everybody all fired up did'nt you. lol

  9. Avatar Tata says:

    I have to say I'm enjoying this thread of conversation, both pros and cons of having to smell marijuana growing.

    Anyway, my 2 cents: I have it on good authority that growers can disguise the scent by growing other more pungent plants along with the pot (i.e., lavender) so for growers that want to be good neighbors and not call unwanted attention to themselves, you might look into this.

  10. Avatar Joanne Lobeski-Snyde says:

    Thank you for another great article Jim. It reminded me of what Cal Hunter told a class of mine years ago. "The news becomes history." We are living in interesting times, and I enjoy the stories you send our way.

  11. Avatar edatoakrun says:

    "The large volume grown this season has sent prices plunging this year, says one Redding medical marijuana grower. Prices have dropped to as low as $800 a pound locally and around $1,500 a pound in Southern California, as the state is flush with harvested marijuana."

    Too bad the prohibitionists killed prop 19.

    Full legalization would bring the price down so low few would bother to grow it.

    If we prohibited the commercial sale of garlic, but allowed growing for "medicinal use", it likely would cost $800 a pound, and people would be complaining about the odor from their neighbors garlic patches.

  12. Avatar Anonymous Friend says:

    I don't know if this is relevant–probably not–but I've been in relationships a-plenty with people who were "casual" pot-smokers, and more than half of them wound up having a real problem keeping their habit from taking over their lives. Invariably it damaged their family relationships. The men in particular seemed to struggle and were always changing jobs, quitting jobs, unable to handle high-stress employment over time. They wound up living in people's basements, etc., pretending it was what they wanted. I'm no saint but as I've grown older I've begun to think it's more interesting to be in conversation with people who don't rely on or depend on weed to feel creative or think great thoughts. Believe it or not there are actually people out there who can be creative an brilliant naturally. This is neither here nor there to the discussion of pot in the yard, but I did want to add it to the mix. The argument that marijuana is not addictive, in my opinion, sort of misses the larger point. It is, at the very least, "habit forming." And habits are hard, hard, hard to break.

    • Avatar No More Lies says:

      Not that I'm callous to your friends' problems with their jobs, relationships and substance abuse – that said:

      Let's not pretend that weed or any other drug is illegal because of the harms to society. Here are some startling ball park statistics to prove my point.

      Annual deaths from ALL illicit drugs: 17,000
      Annual deaths from suicide: 30,000
      Annual deaths from microbial agents: 75,000
      Annual deaths from alcohol: 85,000
      Annual deaths from poor diet and exercise: 356,000

      If we are so concerned about public safety, where is our trillion dollar war on depression and suicide? Or on microbial agents? Where is our trillion dollar war on obesity which makes our drug problem look completely insignificant?

      As I posted earlier – let's not pretend that our hatred and fear of weed has anything to do with logic or concern for others. Stop the lies. Stop the deception. Legalize weed.

    • Avatar tired of pot but ok says:

      This is in response to Anonymous Friend's take on casual pot smokers. My husband has a Prop 215 recommendation and has been smoking pot for years. He's been smoking long before we met and I knew he smoked when we got together. I am a casual smoker who also receives some medical benefits from it due to side effects of several medications I take so I can say I am a supporter of medical marijuana, home-growers, etc. I agree with A.F.'s statement that some people have a hard time keeping this from affecting their lives. My husband has been unemployed for 2 years now, with the exception of a summer season job, and spends almost all of his time growing pot and smoking pot. I know he enjoys the growing part and loves to smoke it, but it it has become all-consuming. I've gotten to the point where I don't like the smell and don't want to smoke it at all because it is all I ever see, hear about, etc. My husband can't deal with stress like he used to and has zero motivation to look for a job. I'm a liberal-minded person and feel that people should be able to smoke marijuana if they want to since it is a natural plant. But, I will say that people who over-use it can and will become addicted to the point that they start to not care about other parts of their lives. It's unfortunate. Hopefully my husband doesn't end up living in someone's basement some day.

      • Avatar Jah Shahid says:

        i hope that your husband will see their is more than growing weed.. i can't say that weed cause us to go from job to job… some people just lack drive.. not matter what

  13. Avatar LovesToEat says:

    If you wanna sniff a really bad odor, just drive to Petaluma, CA…..the egg capitol of the west on a warm day with your windows down. Ugh! Could choke a buzzard off a gut wagon.

  14. Avatar Philbert says:

    I had a burrito for lunch. I wouldn't want to live next door to me either.

  15. Avatar pmarshall says:

    We have smole from wood stoves and fireplaces. We can't go out in the evening when the wood is being burned. Yes, there is an odor from the "dump" which is not far away. All kinds of odors when one lives in the city. The city has okayed marijuana plants in the city. Now another smell. But I do smell a rat.

  16. Avatar josh says:

    another solution to the problem would be for people to move their gardens inside and use carbon filters. they cut the smell down almost to nothing, unless you are standing right in the grow room.