Articles Posted in Drug Dog Sniffs

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On June 25, 2019 Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed Florida Senate Bill 1020, regulating the production and distribution of hemp and hemp extracts in Florida, including the increasingly popular hemp derivative, cannabidiol (CBD). The bill makes Florida the latest state to enact legisla­tion to legalize and regulate its hemp industry.  The bill mirrors similar action at the federal level late last year when President Trump signed the Farm Bill removing hemp from the list of controlled substanc­es, making it legal to grow and sell hemp under federal law.

Hemp comes from the same cannabis plant that produces marijuana. Marijuana, however has much higher lev­els of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the chemical in the plant that is psychoactive and produces the hallmark “high” or euphoria.  Both hemp and marijuana contain CBD, a medical compound that has health benefits but is non-euphoric.

Under the Farm Bill, hemp is legal provided doesn’t contain more than 0.3 percent THC. If hemp contains more than 0.3 percent THC, it is still a federally banned controlled substance.  Similarly, Senate Bill 1020 excludes hemp from the definition of cannabis provided the THC concentration does not exceed 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.

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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