Denver cops use “smell-oscopes” to sniff out dope smokers

As you may or may not have heard, Colorado legalized recreational marijuana last year. After an overwhelming majority of the population voted to amend the state’s constitution to protect personal use of marijuana for adults, the state established a framework to regulate cannabis in a manner similar to alcohol. But the passage of this law has come with an unforeseen consequence – apparently all the dope smoke in the air is offending the nostrils of innocent, non-smoking citizens.

In order to combat this kind of pot pollution, the city of Denver has passed a new “odor ordinance” that carries a $2,000 fine for anyone found guilty of polluting the atmosphere with smell. So, to investigate odor complaints more effectively, Denver Police are using a ridiculous bit of tech called the Nasal Ranger Field Olfactometer –  a device that’s basically a handheld smelloscope.

It’s actually a pretty ingenious device. It works by delivering varying ratios of filtered and full-odor air to the operator’s nose. Mellow smells tend to wash out when mixed with small quantities of purified air, but a particularly odiferous smells can remain detectable at a 500:1 ratio. Check out this video from the History Channel’s Modern Marvels to get a better idea:

Apparently these things aren’t all that new either. Olfactometers have been used to monitor offensive/dangerous odors production in agriculture and industrial facilities for years, but it wasn’t until recently that they were adopted to combat stinky stoners. Wielding one of these smelloscopes, officers can issue fines to any smoker/grower whose herbs can be smelled beyond an 8:1 clean-to-stinky ratio. Denver PD anticipates an upsurge in smell complaints to come in after retail sale of marijuana becomes legal on January 1st of next year.

We just hope these types of odor laws don’t extend past pot regulation. If we take anti-stink legislation too far, soon we’ll be throwing people behind bars just for farting in elevators, leaving lettuce in the fridge for too long, or burning popcorn in the microwave. Legislating against aromas is a slippery slope, Denver. Please don’t get carried away.

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