To date, the following eleven states have legalized recreational use of marijuana: Washington, Oregon, California, Alaska, Nevada, Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, Maine, Vermont and Massachusetts. As those and other states and cities relax their drug laws, the highly trained dogs used by their police departments to sniff out narcotics can’t be relied on to smell the right thing.
It generally costs a law enforcement department about $6,000 to purchase a working dog and thousands more to train it. The drug dogs are usually trained to detect numerous drugs, including marijuana, cocaine, heroin, ecstasy and methamphetamine. So, when a dog alerts, it simply indicates the presence of one of those five drugs. In those states where marijuana has been fully legalized, a drug dog’s alert could mean it smells only marijuana. Since marijuana is legal in those states, the dog’s alert would not give rise to probable cause to search a person or their vehicle for illegal drugs.
Thus, in several states where marijuana is fully legalized, including California, Oregon, Maine and Vermont, most newly acquired drug dogs are not being trained to alert to the smell of marijuana. And, some other states where recreational marijuana use is not legal have started to omit marijuana from the scents dogs are trained to detect. Continue reading