“Something smells like a skunk, and I want some,” sang the immortal Cannabis Sativa Diva. But at the Edmonton International airport in Alberta, Canada, something smells like a skunk, and they want none. According to airport spokesperson Christopher Chodan, airport staff has received a handful of complaints about the skunky smell of cannabis emanating from a massive Aurora Cannabis grow facility next door.
In 2017, the Edmonton International Airport got a new neighbor: an 800,000 square foot, high-tech cannabis production facility. That facility, nicknamed Aurora Sky, belongs to Aurora Cannabis, one of Canada’s largest medical cannabis producers. Aurora says that at maximum capacity, the facility can produce more than 100,000 kilograms of cannabis per year.
Naturally, that kind of production is going to produce some smells. And those smells are wafting over to the taxiways and terminals of the Edmonton airport. It’s likely wafting over to the nearby Premium Outlet Collection mall, too. But so far, no shoppers have complained, just airport travelers.
Cam Battley, Chief Corporate Officer of Aurora Cannabis, said the complaints could stem from travelers’ confusion about the smell of cannabis. Battley thinks there’s still a common misconception that simply smelling cannabis can cause impairment. But “what people are smelling is not the cannabinoid—the active pharmaceutical ingredient in cannabis,” Battley said. In fact, they’re smelling terpenes, the aromatic compounds that impart the signature smells (and tastes) of cannabis plants.
Complaints about the odors produced from farming cannabis are not uncommon. In fact, complaints about smells have led to major lawsuits in some U.S. states. But Aurora Cannabis says its doing everything it can—and everything required by law—to control the odors of their operation.
Construction finished on the Aurora Sky facility in January this year. The last step was the addition of two massive exhaust units for deodorization. Since the facility has added an additional 800 HVAC filters in the processing areas and another 1,360 pocket filters in the grow bays.
Aurora Sky also has a high-tech “air misting system” that filters the air with specialized carbon and charcoal filters. On top of that, the company conducts daily aroma audits across the entire 800,000 square foot facility. “One of the things we’re doing at Aurora Sky is perfecting the technology of odor eradication,” said Battley.
Battley admits that Aurora can still do better, “not just on behalf of ourselves, but on behalf of the industry.” Battley said Aurora is committed to continuous improvement because the company wants to be a good neighbor. With plans to expand production operations in Canada and internationally, odor-busting expertise will be crucial.
Others, however, don’t see what the fuss is about. They say the smell of cannabis in the morning is vastly preferable to the smell of coal-fired power plants and landfills.