Michigan Town Buys 'Nasal Ranger' to Track Down Stinky Marijuana Plants

The Daily Globe reported that the Michigan town of Bessemer has voted to spend approximately $3,400 to purchase a device to smell marijuana plants and train police officers in its use.

According to the town's city council, the most common complaint from residents is the overwhelming odor created by the growing of marijuana. The state legalized recreational marijuana in December 2018, but there are restrictions on how many plants individuals can grow on their private property.

Man using the Nasal Ranger
Man using the Nasal Ranger St. Croix Sensory

"The city of Bessemer stinks," council member Linda Nelson said. "You can smell marijuana everywhere. We've got people who can't sit in their backyard because the smell from their neighbor is so bad."

The Nasal Ranger is a field olfactometer made by St. Croix Sensory. Released in 2012, the device blends external air with filtered air from a tank. The user manipulates a dial on the side of the machine to evaluate the potency of the odor they are tracking.

Denver police began using the device to locate marijuana plants in 2013, and other municipalities have followed suit.

According to the Globe, City Attorney Ray O'Dea will also be tasked with writing an ordinance regulating the use of the device. Bessemer expects George Beninghaus, the city's code enforcement officer, to be the one who is trained on the Nasal Ranger.

Bessemer mayor Adam Zak cast the lone dissenting vote against the purchase of the device, the Globe said. While he supported the device, he wanted the city attorney to research further how the Nasal Ranger would help Bessemer in relation to legal action. "It would be a shame to spend money and not have it hold up in court," he said.

Michigan law enforcement has been struggling with the ramifications of marijuana use since it was legalized. In November 2019, Newsweek reported that state police were still receiving calls about marijuana smoke and odor but lacked the jurisdiction to investigate them unless they suspect that it was being consumed by underage users.

While it is legal to grow marijuana in Michigan, the state's statute mandates that the plants cannot be visible to the naked eye or grown outside of an enclosed, secure area.

Cannabis plants begin to release a noticeable odor starting at just a few weeks old. When they begin to flower and produce buds, that smell becomes much stronger. As plants increase in quantity, the odor multiplies. According to The New York Times, some California towns are seeking to ban cannabis growing over olfactory concerns, despite it being legal on the state level.

Possession of over a dozen plants in Michigan carries a $500 fine. If the crop is over 24 plants, that increases to a felony charge that carries up to seven years in prison and a $500,000 fine.