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If You Carry Marijuana in Washington State, Police Dogs Will Sniff Right Past You

Small amounts of pot are now legal in the state, so drug-sniffing dogs are being trained to ignore it.

 |  May 9th 2013  |   1 Contribution


Washington's Bremerton Police Department will longer be training their drug-sniffing dogs to detect marijuana, according to the Columbian. And law enforcement agencies around the state are doing the same, after voters approved an initiative legalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana in November. 

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A police officer and his dog by Shutterstock.

One of the first of those dogs is Dusty, an 18-month-old black Lab. After her training is completed, she'll be the first drug-sniffing dog who is as clueless around pot as a 1950s grandmother. Dusty, who was bred at North Bend Retriever Kennel to be a champion birding dog, switched gears after her restless nature proved incompatible with birding.  

Her partner, Bremerton Police Officer Dahle "Duke" Roessel, called Dusty's insatiable drive to look for things "perfect for what we need."

And what they don't need is a dog busting people for pot. 

"It's problematic because the dogs could alert on a legal amount of marijuana," said Washington State Patrol spokesman Bob Calkins. "And then we're violating someone's privacy."

Also, let's say Dusty scores a truckload of illegal meth alongside a tiny, legal amount of pot -- all of it could get thrown out in court. Calkins says that even a gun used in a murder could be thrown out if the dog found it while going after a joint. 

"It will just complicate things so much in doing the search and trying to get a warrant," he said. 

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Dogs' sniffing skills can be used to put them to work. Airport canine by Shutterstock.

If the laws change, don't worry. While it's difficult to remove pot sniffing from a dog's repertoire, it's easy to add.

"We can train them on marijuana in a weekend," said Roessel

The practice is becoming widespread among law-enforcement agencies in Washington, including the Seattle Police Department and Washington State Patrol. In December, the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys sent out a memo advising the state's law-enforcement agencies that narcotics dogs are no longer required to be trained to alert for marijuana, according to KomoNews.com. In January, the drug was removed from the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission's Canine Performance Standards test.

The issue is affecting other states around the country who are grappling with their new marijuana laws, such as Colorado.

"Basically, there is no way to untrain the dogs to not do marijuana," John Schulz, spokesman for the Larimer County Sheriff's Office, told Denver Westword last month. "So it really hamstrings the use of the dogs. What it boils down to is, we can't use the dog sniff any more as a reason for probable cause."

Via the Columbian

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