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Will Americans Tolerate Marijuana Odors As Legalization Progresses?

Consumers have been forced underground with the herb all their lives and now that it is finally being recognized as a legal substance, they refuse to keep hiding.

It’s getting to the point where it is almost impossible to be anywhere in the United States and not catch a whiff of marijuana coming from somewhere at some point. More than half the nation has legalized the leaf for medicinal and recreational use.

Even though cannabis users aren’t supposed to smoke the stuff in public, the odors seem to be out there, invading everyone’s olfactory senses, regardless of whether they like it or not. For some folks, the scent of marijuana wafting through the air is not a problem. But the smell can get others noticeably offended.

And it’s not just the old-time conservatives well-adjusted to the ways of pot prohibition taking a stand. Younger people are among those who think marijuana odors in this country are out of control.

whats the best way to get rid of cannabis smell
Photo by Tunatura/Getty Images

In a recent tweet, Kevin Sabat, PhD, President of Smart Approaches to Marijuana and author of the book Smokescreen: What The Marijuana Industry Doesn’t Want You To Know, shared a message he received from a 23-year-old Los Angeles, California resident concerned about the invasiveness of marijuana odors.


“I have awful allergic reactions to the secondhand smoke, and it used to be bearable, but since legalization, you literally can’t walk 2 blocks without smelling it in the air,” the message reads. “Even at my house, I live on top of a hill, and the neighbor at the bottom of the hill, 2 houses away, smokes so much it wafts upward to my backyard. Can’t even enjoy a breazy [sic] day in backyard anymore. I’ve since moved part-time to TN, which has been better, but fear they are trending in the same direction as CA.”

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There hasn’t been a heck of a lot of research so far over how Americans have reacted to the increasing odor of marijuana in their neck of the woods. But some of the limited studies we have on the topic show that most are none too crazy about their nostrils being bombarded by bud in public.

In 2019, a poll conducted by PSB Research, Civilized, Burson Cohn & Wolfe and BuzzFeed News found that 51% of the population thinks that public marijuana odors have become problematic. Nearly a quarter of the population even went so far as to say that they “hate” when they catch a whiff of weed while they’re out trying to get dinner or just hang out on the street.

Washington State University
Photo by PhotoAlto/Sanna Lindberg/Getty Images

A lot of cannabis advocates don’t care what non-weed-smoking Americans think about pot odors. In their minds, they’ve been forced underground with the herb all their lives and now that it is finally being recognized as a legal substance, they refuse to keep hiding. Some simply won’t admit that pot odors are a problem. In fact, responding to Sabet’s tweet, some pro-cannabis commenters simply accused him of faking the message. “Seems like you just sent yourself a DM and pretended to be some guy who’s 23 from LA am I right.” Another commenter also thinks the message is bogus. “Don’t think we don’t know you just text yourself Kevin.”

RELATED: What’s That Smell? Why Your Marijuana Smells Skunky

Meanwhile, we live in a society that often dictates that we make concessions with our lifestyles and behaviors to keep the peace. Alcohol and tobacco are legal nationwide. Yet around 30 states have imposed smoking bans, and Americans cannot stumble around drunk in the streets in most places without getting carted off to jail. Without rules, there is chaos. So far, none of the states that have legalized marijuana have put too much effort into controlling pot odors. They’re too busy looking at the financial benefits to give this detail the proper attention.

Early on, some local jurisdictions in Colorado tried to police weed odors, but it wasn’t practical. All in all, the cannabis odor debate just hasn’t stirred up enough frantic energy to become a hard target for change. This is primarily due to cannabis still being illegal under federal law. Once that changes, rest assured groups will come forward and force governmental controls to devise a solution.

RELATED: Legal Marijuana States Buying ‘Nasal Rangers’ Because Of Weed’s ‘Stinky Smell’

Perhaps if states got serious about allowing cannabis lounges to finally take shape (in a way similar to bars) there would be some relief. However, many lawmakers argue that allowing people to gather in public to get stoned will only complicate matters.

Unfortunately, the cannabis legalization issue is not cut and dry. It has multiple layers beyond whether there should be a taxed and regulated market. But just like the nation has done with alcohol and tobacco, the times will adjust. Nevertheless, you can bet the fight over pot odors is just getting started.

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