Stinky Situation: An investigation into Cathedral City’s cannabis odor problem

Stinky Situation: An investigation into Cathedral City’s cannabis odor problem


Posted: Feb 08, 2019 05:06 PM PST

Updated: Feb 12, 2019 08:20 PM PST

CATHEDRAL CITY, Calif.- – After nearly two years of legal cannabis cultivation in Cathedral City, the industry generated $1.5M of tax revenue last year and is expected to exceed $2.5M this year. When it first took off, the pungent smell was a problem for residents and nearby businesses – even several blocks away from cannabis facilities.

City officials say they’ve implemented measures to mitigate the pungent smell — including updating building codes to require expensive upgrades like carbon filters and vacuum sealed windows. But now, more than a year after code compliance received its first call on the issue, residents and businesses say the city still stinks.

“You can close your eyes and you know you’re in Cathedral City,” said Angela Valente-Romeo, owner of Colliding Worlds Fine Art Gallery. “It’s just the stench is unbearable.”

“It’s the first thing I smell when I come to work and it’s the last thing I smell when I leave,” said Jeff Jordan, owner of Prestige Flooring Center.

The city has 51 cannabis facilities open and operating, including dispensaries, grow houses, manufacturers and distributors. 

“The odor’s becoming a problem for all the businesses on the street,” Jordan said. He’s worried the stench the cannabis industry has caused is bad for his business. He’s already seen a drop in customers. 

“When this all started coming out, they told us there wasn’t gonna be an issue with the smell and from the start there was,” he said. “It’s going to deter businesses like ours from being here. Definitely.”

Valente-Romeo said the same about her art gallery. 

“It’s totally affected business,” she said. “People are coming here, their eyes are watering, they can’t breathe — and nobody — who wants to be here?”

Mandy Evans lives a mile and a half from the Perez Road businesses, where she can smell it at home. 

“The patio just really smelt like skunks, I thought,” Evans said. “I said to my friend, ‘Do you smell skunk,’ and she said, ‘No, that’s cannabis.'”

News Channel 3’s Jake Ingrassia went on patrol with Pat Milos, who’s leading Cathedral City’s crack down on odor offendors. 

Driving through the city, it didn’t take long to sniff out a potential violator. As the patrol vehicle turned onto Perez Road, the smell of pot was immediately recognizeable. 

“I think our culprit might be right up here,” Milos said.

Milos pulled into an alleyway behind an area he described as the epicenter of Cathedral City’s cannabis industry, full of cultivation grow houses.

“You can smell that strong right now,” Ingrassia said. 

Milos then pulled out his phone, dialing the city’s code enforcement hotline. 

“Pay him a visit and see what’s going on with his cannabis odor,” he said, letting the city’s four code comlpiance officers know where and when he smelled the violation and notifying them to investigate. 

We followed up on the call put into code compliance: within a efw hours, the nearly 10,000 sq. foot cultivation facility was issued a violation for the odor and fined $122. 

That’s the fee for a first infraction, but fines can range upwards of $500 per day, until the problem is solved. 

In this case, it was quickly turned around by switching out the facility’s carbon filters. 

Milos said they routinely drive the route of cannabis businesses at least once a day.

But residents say it’s not working. 

“For the longest time nobody would get back to you,” Valente-Romeo said. “So we would call and we would call and we would call and leave messages and we never heard from anybody.”

She’s pushing for stricter enforcement. 

“Maybe it’s time to put the brakes on and look at how to fix it before it gets worse,” she said.

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