Olfactory Surveillance

The Denver police are using olfactometers to measure the concentration of cannabis in the air. I haven't found any technical information about these devices, their sensitivity, range, etc.

Posted on December 4, 2014 at 3:40 PM • 39 Comments

Comments

AnuraDecember 4, 2014 4:03 PM

Good news everyone! I invented the smelloscope! No we have something for our police to do now that they aren't spending so much time arresting people for Marijuana posession!

tyco bassDecember 4, 2014 4:14 PM

The Lone Nasal Ranger looks so ridiculous, I can't believe many policemen would want to deploy it. (Although there is that $2,000 shakedown fine, which they could probably pocket.)

ScaredDecember 4, 2014 4:48 PM

I had to check twice to see that this article wasn't from April 1st.

Anyway, Notorious Norbert the Narc had a device exactly like that in Fabulous Furious Freakbrothers back in the 70's. Unfortunately he fired it up as the FFF returned from a bean rich dinner at the local Mexican restaurant.

octavioDecember 4, 2014 5:49 PM

Isn't marijuana legal in Colorado? Why do the police need to measure the air for the concentration of something that is not against the law? Also, who would they arrest if there is too much "cannabis" in the air? Old Mother West Wind?

DougieDecember 4, 2014 6:29 PM

Oh, how I long for the good ol' days of US government budget conservatism when we restrained our spending to $435 hammers. At least those could pound a nail. This thing won't even nail a pound.

G. BaileyDecember 4, 2014 7:19 PM

From the looks of the device, I don't think they are accounting for the effects of observer bias. It would need to randomly substitute 100% clean air, and verify that the observer records that as a false reading.

It still is just a smokescreen to legitimize the criminalization of smells. That's a sentence I never imagined I'd type...

DerrickDecember 4, 2014 7:26 PM

If we would just mount these devices on drones, instead of dogs, it'll make animal rights activists that much happier. ;p

Chris AbbottDecember 4, 2014 8:04 PM

@Derrick

"Be careful. I think that drone is sniffing us!" Is going to be the latest phrase used by teenagers in the near future.

@octavio, @Bruce

How is this device going to distinguish between legitimate weed-air and illegal weed-air? It's not like alcohol so it wouldn't be detectible in the air when someone is driving high either.

This seems like the most pointless thing ever.

FVLonghornDecember 4, 2014 9:01 PM

@octavio

weed is legal to possess, but it can only be smoked on private property. And allowing the smoke (and therefore the odor) on to adjoining property is banned.

WaelDecember 4, 2014 10:34 PM

I wonder if the recent talks about @Figuritout's ultra-hi-end $1000.00+ hammerhead percolator bong influenced the choice of this subject :) oh, well... That's the funniest gadget I have seen this year! A canabis amplifier! I mean couldn't they display the concentration on a screen? If this is really true, that guy will get sky-high (add the altitude of a mile-high city) on the first whiff! They should invent something for mushrooms, instead! Looks like an inverted hair dyer! Someone is pulling a "our man in Havana" on them!
I propose they find a fix for ghettos instead!

Ole JuulDecember 5, 2014 12:11 AM

Why is the word "nose telescope" being used for something which obviously has no "tele" component? I suspect that if they're that mixed up about common word usage that anything they say is not to be taken seriously.

Dr NoDecember 5, 2014 1:59 AM

I hope it is also applied to ordinary tobacco, as that is quite a nuisance for non-smokers.

Dave HoweDecember 5, 2014 2:18 AM

Lets hope it can be adapted for other odours then, assuming cannabis use is legalised for medical purposes at some point ...

Peter A.December 5, 2014 5:15 AM

@Wael:

It is not an amplifier, it's the other way round.

For some unimaginable reasons there's reportedly some law on book which prohibits any smells if they are detectible by humans in 1:7 dilution with non-smelly air - under $2000 fine.

This device mixes ambient air with the same air passed through carbon filter in specific (settable?) proportion, 1:7 in this case. Then it is smelled by the operator and if he/she still feels the smell after dilution, it's $2000 extra income for the local government.

It does not matter if it is cannabis smoke or wood smoke or rotting cabbage or whatnot.

SchmellyDecember 5, 2014 5:19 AM

Dogs have been doing this for centuries, surveiling the wind, sniffing around at stuff. I've always suspected my dog was watching me.


NateDecember 5, 2014 9:14 AM

If this tool is "calibrated" based on a statistical model, I guarantee there will be a significant amount of false positives generated by it. Much like the radar guns police use, they'll just assume the tool is perfect (as well as the user). Heck, right now all an officer needs to do is find out you have a large amount of cash in your car, and he suddenly "smells drugs", calls in a dog, has it alert, and then steals your money (read up on asset forfeiture) . This tool eliminates the dog part.

vas pupDecember 5, 2014 12:03 PM

@Dave Howe • December 5, 2014 2:18 AM: "assuming cannabis use is legalised for medical purposes at some point ..."
Regardless, see @FVLonghorn • December 4, 2014 9:01 PM:
"weed is legal to possess, but it can only be smoked on private property. And allowing the smoke (and therefore the odor) on to adjoining property is banned." I support the idea that you may have a right to smoke tobacco or pot on your private property, but I have a right to enjoy fresh air on my adjacent property, i.e. it is responsibility of smoker to prevent pollution, not my responsibility to install filters. Smoke should be handled at the source in a way required by Law.

AlexDecember 5, 2014 3:51 PM

@vas pup: I wish there were laws like that, particularly when dealing with smoking in multifamily buildings. I have a few friends whose neighbors are chain smokers...and my friends' clothing and apartments absolutely reek of the stuff.

Casual FridayDecember 5, 2014 7:23 PM

Waste of money. As anyone who's been within 50 feet of someone smoking marijuana can tell you it's about the easiest thing on the planet to detect with your nose. Proximity, concentration and burned VS unburned odor are all pretty much plain as day. How bloody accurately do really need to know?

unclejedDecember 6, 2014 11:32 AM

probably the reason they've been quiet on the subject is that helicopters force a lot of clean air from above down over the airframe, and the sniffer never gets a positive reading..... oops.... if it were anything more than a propaganda tool, they might actually hang the probe below the chopper's airflow evelope.....

unclejedDecember 6, 2014 11:51 AM

regarding Denver, i remember when i was young and smoked weed, there were "pen" pipes that i owned that held a joint's worth of pot, but emitted no smoke, and if you held the smoke in your lungs long enough, you emitted no smoke when you exhaled..... wow sounds like a niche market give me some aluminum tubing and a lathe..... that might work until they all move to Boulder CO where you can smoke weed in public, but get a ticket if you smoke tobacco outdoors..... but then i could also sell pen pipes to tobacco smokers there.....

FigureitoutDecember 6, 2014 2:14 PM

Jesus christ, that picture...How dumb...How would this even work w/ chaotic wind, would only work inside. Not to mention that those paranoid enough in the pot game have moved on to E-cigs that use oil and wax and the "smoke" is water vapor that dissipates quickly and is a fraction of typical odor. So too little too late as usual for the authorities, the game's already changed; I even got offered some straight up at a liquor store! Besides OPSEC fail, just shows how widespread drug use is getting.

unclejed
--LOL yeah that's probably it w/ the drug drone, durrr didn't really think that one thru...In addition to all the trickery and smoking devices now, you can also use a paper towel roll, stuff it full of dryer sheets, then put one on end and rubberband it shut. Dryer sheets absorb a lot of smell. Just heard it from Wael, thought I'd share one of his tricks. :p

Wael
--What did I tell you about saying my name? Remember that?

WaelDecember 6, 2014 3:33 PM

@Figureitout,

What did I tell you about saying my name? Remember that?
A thousand pardons my friend! I remember vividly! I noticed that I miss-typed it when I read the post, and didn't know what to do about it. I was going to post a correction, but thought it's not needed. I figured you search for your name and wouldn't find this. I guess I was wrong, one of the very very rare occasions ;)

WaelDecember 6, 2014 3:37 PM

@Figureitout,

Dryer sheets absorb a lot of smell. Just heard it from Wael,
Holly crap! That's funny! I'll never trust you with another secret. Let me share another secret with "all" of you, and spare you the guilt of ratting me out: Dryer sheets also muffle bullet sounds :)

FigureitoutDecember 6, 2014 3:49 PM

Dryer sheets also muffle bullet sounds
Wael
--Farts too, wouldn't want that "nosey" guy breathing in "the good stuff".

vas pupDecember 8, 2014 10:39 AM

@Alex • December 5, 2014 3:51 PM:
Common Law (in US) should be applied. Because of tobacco lobby (my educated guess) similar to prevention noise pollution Statutory Laws related to smoke pollution was not adopted on Federal/State/metropolitan levels. Feds have authority to restrict smokers from FHA, subsidize housings, section 8, etc., but there is no political will to do that. It is easy to criticize recent changes in healthcare law, but to do something real to prevent real health risks for constituents is not the same.

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