The stench rising from nearby cannabis farms has become a major source of frustration for residents in California's cultivation hotspots.
Most people are familiar with marijuana's signature aroma. The strong, skunk-like smell has long been a sign of a plant's strength and quality. But that smell quickly becomes horrendous during peak blooming periods if you live near a large commercial farm.
"If someone is saying, 'Is it really that bad?' I'll go find a bunch of skunks and every evening I'll put them outside your window," Mike Wondolowski of Carpinteria, California told the New York Times. "It's just brutal."
As a result, Mendocino County has responded by imposing strict zoning regulations to keep farms away from residential areas. In Santa Barbara County, growers have started implementing expensive deodorizing systems. And in Sonoma County, lawsuits have been launched by residents who want cultivation banned entirely.
That's because some families can't bear to leave their homes because of the overbearing stench, according to Sonoma resident Robert Guthrie.
"I can't be outside more than 30 minutes" during flowering season, Guthrie said. "The windows are constantly closed. We are trapped inside. There's no escape."
Sonoma County has received 730 cannabis related complaints this year. Of those, 65 percent are related to odor, explained Sonoma's cannabis program manager Tim Ricard, who says the odor has caused headaches for local students at Carpinteria High School, which has to warn visiting sports teams about the stench before they arrive for matches.
But pot producers are pushing, saying their businesses aren't the only ones stinking up the neighborhood.
"You have a smell issue that sometimes can't be completely mitigated," said Dennis Hunter - co-founder of the Sonoma County cannabis grower CannaCraft. "But we have dairy farms here in the area or crush season for the vineyards—there's agricultural crops, and a lot of them have smells."
Still, Britt Chirsiansen - who lives next to both dairy and cannabis farms in Sonoma County - says the smell of cow manure is a lot easier to stomach. That's why she joined the ongoing lawsuits against local cannabis producers.
"We opened the door and the smell kicked us in the face," Christiansen said of the scents wafting over from marijuana farms.
While creating zoning regulations can keep irritable scents away from some residents, there's not a whole lot that can be done for people living right next to cannabis farms. Especially since deodorizing systems are expensive, so not all producers can afford to install them. Asking either the residents or the farms to just up and move likely wouldn't go over too well either.
So it looks like California's cannabis regions will continue to stink for the foreseeable future.