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Pot Grower Seeks ‘Farm’ Classification to Avoid Odor Penalties

Farm Smell Cannabis Now
Photo Taylor Kent for Cannabis Now


Pot Grower Seeks ‘Farm’ Classification to Avoid Odor Penalties

Odor complaints are leading Washington cannabis cultivator Green Freedom to seek “official” classification as a farm — and thus exemption from penalties around the smell.

To most noses, a farm by any other name would not smell as sweet as Green Freedom, Justin Wildhaber’s legal marijuana cultivation operation in western Washington state. One need not have lived next door to a dairy farm to recognize the difference between the olfactory pleasures of rows of cannabis plants and, say, the “grassy” notes of manure.

But since Wildhaber is growing cannabis, Green Freedom is not, technically or legally, a “farm.” In turn, that makes the pine, skunk and lemon smells wafting from the terpenes in the tops of his plants’ colas a violation of clean-air laws, rather than a fact of life in ag-land.

Why is cannabis treated differently than acres of row crops — and why can fresh dung escape penalty when fresh cannabis is treated as an environmental hazard?

The answer is in the question: According to state laws, cannabis is outside the norm. But in what could be a precedent-setting case, Wildhaber is moving to have his marijuana farm officially classified as a “farm.” If he succeeds, cannabis odors will be treated in the same way as other farm smells, meaning they won’t be punished. More importantly, marijuana farmers will be a step closer to being treated as other workers of the land.

Capital Press has the news of Wildhaber’s appeal to the state Pollution Control Hearings Board. Thus far, the board has deemed that marijuana plantings don’t deserve the same protections as feedlots, ranches and farms from penalties for odor and dust because cannabis farms are too small — less than five acres, and ergo don’t qualify as “agricultural land.”

Other arguments against giving cannabis grows farm status include the fact that the plant is still regulated under state drug-control laws and isn’t taxed like other agricultural products. Sales of marijuana in Washington state are subject to a total levy of 37 percent, much higher than tomatoes or apples or other produce.

Wildhaber and Green Freedom were twice assessed fines of $1,000 after investigators detected the smell of marijuana on a neighbor’s property, Capital Press reported, after a neighbor made “dozens of complaints” about the smell of marijuana.

Investigators visited and detected a smell strong enough to be “distinct and recognizable,” or a “2” on a scale of “0 to 4.” Four, the strongest smell, means it caused a “physical reaction,” Capital Press reported.

Wildhaber will host officials from the pollution control board at his farm on Jan. 18, who will then debate the merits of farm status at an ensuing two-day hearing.

Logic would dictate that Wildhaber has a real case. The operative verb in cannabis farming is “farm.” Don’t farmers farm on a farm — and wouldn’t that make Green Freedom, to bludgeon the point to death, a “farm?”

Lara Kaminsky, the executive director of The Cannabis Alliance, a Washington state-based marijuana advocacy group, certainly thinks so.

“It is legal. It is a legal crop,” she told Capital Press. “It should have the same rules and regulations as other crops.”

At least some state lawmakers would disagree. An effort to add marijuana to Washington’s official definitions of farms failed after a committee vote. According to state Rep. Tom Dent (R-Moses Lake), marijuana odors should not be treated like other “farm smells” because “there’s something in marijuana that can effect [sic] your nervous system,” he told the newspaper.

In this, he is not entirely wrong. While you can’t become stoned merely from smelling raw cannabis — THC appears in the marijuana plant as THC-A, or tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, and must be heated, or decarboxylated, before it becomes THC — the cannabis plant’s terpenes may be potent enough to have application in aromatherapy, which is more than can be said for other “farm smells.”

TELL US, do you think cannabis grows should be classified as official farms?



  1. steve king

    February 15, 2019 at 10:43 am

    Something’s rotten in Carpinteria. Do property rights end at the point of someone’s nose?
    As a libertarian, I find the big things (compulsory public education, Income tax, state aggression) easier to address (all no), than the more nuanced things such as land use and environmental protection.
    Contentious case in point: cannabis growing near housing (or other people’s noses.)
    Cigarette smoking has been banned in many public places because 2nd hand smoke allegedly harms the health of non-smokers and most non-smokers find 2nd hand smoke obnoxious. Speaking for myself only, as a libertarian, clearly the right to life (health) of the non-smoker, trumps the right to expose others to cigarette smoke without their consent. Consent is implied if one voluntarily enters private property where smoking is allowed.
    Though I firmly endorse a landowner’s right to grow cannabis, it’s not difficult for me to side with the adjoining property owners who object to the odor and other risks inherent with cannabis farming. Why? Because the odor (and other potential problems, like burglary and possibly worse), devalues property, degrades air, and possibly jeopardizes health, thus violating the more fundamental rights of neighboring property owners.
    The odor issue is not new and has been addressed with varying degrees of success and (mostly) dissatisfaction in Santa Barbara and other cannabis growing regions in the U.S. Its unfortunate local authorities didn’t consider (or ignored) these controversies before moving forward with legislation.
    Why are progressive-environmentalist regimes permitting cannabis growing in populated areas? As with many other zoning issues, citizens are secondary to the revenue an enterprise will generate for the regime*. Especially if other significant revenue generating enterprises (fossil fuels) have been severely restricted and/or banned.
    *“A mature marijuana industry could generate up to $28 billion in tax revenues for federal, state, and local governments, including $7 billion in federal revenue: $5.5 billion from business taxes and $1.5 billion from income and payroll taxes.”

  2. Lawrence Goodwin

    January 9, 2018 at 9:00 pm

    Great article, Chris. Another large concern for outdoor cannabis growers is hemp farmers, who are widening the spread of pollen from male cannabis flowers in their legal hemp fields. Fat, beautiful, female cannabis flowers—much like those shown in the picture above—are bound to get pollinated and therefore loaded with seeds if “marijuana” and hemp farms are too close to one another. One can imagine the many problems that would create.

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