Yes – the Nose Knows

My husband and I have been the police for a really long time. We take issue with those who claim we can’t smell marijuana on clothes, whether the accusers work with scents, stink, what-have-you — or none. We both have hovered over numerous campfires. He rescued two old women from a burning building, and I was an Emergency Medical Technician, decades ago; we can still tell the difference between a wood fire and burning human flesh with ease (or unease, in the case of burnt people).

In spite of my late father sucking down cancer sticks in the house when I was growing up, in spite of having smoked too often myself as a foolish young adult, in spite of hours spent chatting in smoky bars decades back, and in spite of a few seasonal allergies these days, our sense of smell is still keen enough to distinguish between the smells of marijuana, cigarette, and cigar smoke. We can also distinguish between dog urine (which we generally find tolerable), and that of cats (repulsive). We can tell by the odors left in a person’s clothing if s/he owns cats. We have known for years that when we are at work, if a person we stop to question passes gas he’s is usually hiding something he considers more vexing. Drugs or weapons, flatulence is the tip-off.

He has on occasion come home from working with a partner who smoked. Although he would not let the other officer smoke inside the squad car, the lingering odor was sufficient for me to ask hubby to immediately launder his uniform. He had the same reaction when I was stuck with a smoker. The stench lingers on fabric, including car seats.
We have worked in the public high schools and caught whiffs of the marijuana smell on students’ clothing as they were brought into the detention office. We have on countless occasions in our total 60+ years on the force smelled it in gangways, on arrestees being brought into the lockup, and coming from a car upon making a traffic stop.

Even a moderately good sense of smell should let anyone not olefactorily impaired know when the milk is spoiled. If people can’t tell subtle differences in smells, however do parfumiers manage their jobs? Coffee roasters, too, depend on their sense of smell. Odors alert doctors to changes in their patients’ health. Just as we humans can tell more different shades of green than any other color, all our senses start out acute, and (absent disorders or abusing them) we usually retain them.

There’s a woman who can smell Parkinson’s Disease. Scientists are working to determine what exactly it is she’s smelling, in hopes of helping others with Parkinson’s.

So sorry to our detractors, but your notion that we can’t distinguish marijuana is all wet. Cops have a nose for pot — and a host of other troubles!


About majaramirez

former assistant instructor in tai chi chu'an; current TreeKeeper (#467); former Master Gardener; member of American Bird Conservancy, Audubon, Fraternal Order of Police, and Mensa; recently retired career cop; wife and mom.
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