TRURO — Under a unique agreement between officials and marijuana farmers, those bothered by the smell of pot from their neighbors’ commercial cannabis farms will be able to lodge a complaint with the town and go through a mediation process.
Truro is one of only two towns in the Commonwealth with farmers pursuing state licenses to grow in residential neighborhoods, said Robert Weinstein, of the Truro select board. On Aug. 27, the board approved the community host agreement allowing the High Dune Craft Cooperative to grow marijuana in residential areas.
The agreement, which took two years to receive approval, contains the typical aspects of such agreements between towns and marijuana business owners, including mitigation fees paid to the town. Truro will collect up to three percent of the farmers’ revenue.
But what makes the Truro deal different is creation of an avenue for neighbors to lodge complaints about the smell of the farms. These five farmers — four in Truro and one in Wellfleet — plan to grow outdoors.
Marijuana plants produce flowers for about six weeks out of the year, from early to late fall depending on the crop, said Michael Fee, the High Dune Craft Cooperative’s lawyer.
This is the only time that marijuana plants smell, he added.
The smell, which won’t get you high, is from the terpenes— aromatic oils secreted from the plant. And just how smelly they are depends on multiple factors including genetics of the plant, time of day, weather, wind and growing mechanism, said David DeWitt, owner of the Outer Cape Cannabis Connection.
DeWitt plans to grow at the Winkler property at 1 Noon Heights Road, which is actually commercially zoned. He plans to cultivate 13,500 square feet of farm land in his first year, less than one-third of an acre, he said. His is the largest farm planned in Truro. The others, located at 12 Long Nook Road and two operators at 23 Bridge Road, are each only going to cultivate 2,500 square feet in their first year, he said.
Some neighbors are nervous.
Peter Manso, who lives on Long Nook Road, said he lives downwind of a farm.
“The wind off Long Nook Road will carry the stench a half a mile,” he said.
The smell, DeWitt said, will depend on so many factors it’s hard to predict. The terpenes are strongest in the morning hours, he said. A windy clear day will send odors farther, while heavier humid air doesn’t carry aroma as far. The odor will travel downwind. And different types of marijuana produce different odors.
Marijuana grown outdoors will in some ways be less odoriferous than pot grown in a more concentrated fashion under a greenhouse with open sides, DeWitt said. He plans to grow in three ways: outdoors, in a greenhouse and indoors. There are filters to control odor when growing under a greenhouse and indoor, he said.
He said the complaints about odor are usually from people living near indoor grow facilities that lack proper ventilation.
“We plan to do it right,” he said.
In order to address the odor issue, Truro’s attorney Katherine Laughman added a mediation process to the host agreement for neighbors.
It authorizes the town to start an investigation after there have been six or more complaints within a two-week period. The complaints must come from neighbors living within 600 feet of the farm.
The distance is meant to restrict complaints to those deemed legitimate as opposed to complaints from people who are philosophically opposed to marijuana, Fee said.
Neighbors can also file nuisance complaints, that will require inspection by the health agent, or go through the zoning board of appeals to enforce violations of the special permit. The farmers must get all applicable regulatory permits as well as a state license before they can begin operation.
The mediation process doesn’t change any of that. Mediation is just another way to handle odor issues, Fee said.
Reaction to smell is subjective, but aroma can also be measured. There are products, such as the Nasal Ranger, made by St. Croix Sensory, which measure and quantify odor strength in the ambient air. Such products are being marketed to help solve aroma arguments around the new legal marijuana industry.
DeWitt said it has taken two years to get the community host agreement, the first step in the process of receiving all their licenses and permits. Now he and his fellow farmers must get a Craft Cannabis Cooperative License from the state.
They want to grow an organic, high-quality product and they want to get into the market early in order to have the best chance of success. The two-year tussle with the town has not helped, he added. But they have lined up equipment, security and financing so once they have the license they’ll be ready to grow.