K9 Dogs’ Training Will Change With Marijuana Legalization

Police officer with a german shepherd police dog

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Many states have legalized marijuana, but clear steps on what’s next for cannabis-sniffing canines have not yet been outlined. This is the current climate in some of the states facing marijuana decriminalization. Both retirement-ready and mid-career drug sniffing dogs are affected.

Colorado police departments are spearheading the shift in training, at least for incoming K9 sniffers. All new sniffing dogs no longer undergo training for marijuana. Only canine sniffers who are meant to conduct school and jail searches will retain marijuana training.

The Effect Of Marijuana Legalization

It has already been six years since Colorado legalized marijuana for recreational use. Yet both state and local law enforcement do not have a concrete training program for the new kind of training police dogs will have moving forward. Trained dogs have a specific indicator when sniffing out illegal drugs. However, it is almost impossible to differentiate if it is for legal marijuana or any of the other harder, illegal drugs.

The issue of marijuana canine sniffers has already been on the spotlight ever since the Craig incident in 2015. Police offers pulled over Kevin McKnight’s truck because of an allegedly known methamphetamine user in the passenger seat. Canine sniffer Kilo gave the alert signal, prompting the police to search the truck and find a pipe with meth residue. This led to McKnight’s conviction of possession of substance and drug paraphernalia and a sentence of 30 days in jail and a two-year probation. The controversy is whether Kilo’s alert for now-legal marijuana gave police rightful probable cause to search the vehicle for illegal substances.

Change In Training Is Happening

Police trained dogs

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K9 training for a single dog can cost as much as $10,000 without the numerous man hours of training. Other states like Utah are now trying to go a different direction in training its new breed of canine sniffers.

“We’ll have to get some clarification with the legal community and with the attorneys and determine what protocols we’ll have to set in place and how we move forward,” said Cottonwood Heights police officer Ken Eatchel in an interview. “However, it will change a lot of the ways we do things currently.”

What do you think about the new situation for training K9 dogs in the police force? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

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