New Cannabis Law Won’t Replace Addicting Dogs | News, Sports, Jobs


While drug-sniffing police dogs would be forced into early retirement in states where adult-use marijuana has been legalized, Chautauqua County Sheriff James Quattrone doesn’t believe any of the K-9s in the department will not be affected so dramatically.

The problem is that dogs trained to detect multiple drugs – including marijuana, heroin, methamphetamine, and cocaine – alert everyone the same way, so it’s impossible to tell if K-9s indicate the presence of cannabis or an illicit drug. . Dogs also cannot distinguish between a small legal amount of marijuana or a larger and still illegal amount of the drug.

An article published in late May by the Associated Press noted that for police, the new marijuana possession laws mean they can no longer be used to establish the probable cause of a search.

Quattrone has confirmed that the new law, which allows adults in New York State to legally possess and use up to 3 ounces of recreational marijuana, will have an impact on the department when it comes to use of drug detection K-9s to establish probable cause in cases.

“These dogs are trained to provide the same indication when locating one of their trained scents,” said the sheriff, “and, to my knowledge, there is no legally justified example of a dog being recycled or ‘cleaned’ of a previously printed scent.”

He added: “So the obvious legal argument made by any defense is that even if a dog indicates and another drug is located, he will claim that his client is a regular marijuana smoker and the dog indicated the residual odor of marijuana This will most likely hold up under most circumstances.

However, Quattrone said for the “large majority” of the time, the K-9s are used as a tracking tool. “It has been quite rare that we have used the dog’s indication to establish probable cause, without consent given, for a warrantless search or as the cause of a search warrant request,” he said. “There were only very limited circumstances where we could use them in this way.

“Most of the time the situation was that the probable cause for the search already existed, regardless of canine use, and the dog was being used as a tool to locate contraband that could not be found by manual search. This utility is still just as viable as it was before the new marijuana laws. For example, if we have a search warrant to search for narcotics in a residential space, I am not aware of any legal decisions that restrict or define the tools we can use in that search. (It’s) no different from someone using a mirror or periscope to look for a suspended ceiling, no different (than) a portable x-ray. These dogs are tracking tools that “see” what nothing else can see. “

In Virginia, the rush to shut down marijuana detector dogs began even before lawmakers voted last month to speed up the legalization schedule. A separate law that came into effect in March prohibits police from arresting or searching anyone based solely on the smell of marijuana.

Virginia State Police are retiring 13 K-9s, while many small police departments and sheriff’s offices are removing a dog or two. Most are in the process of buying and training new dogs to detect only illicit drugs, including cocaine, heroin and methamphetamines. Some departments cannot afford up to $ 15,000 to purchase and train a new dog, so they are dismantling their K-9 units.

According to the AP, other states that legalized marijuana earlier have had to make similar adjustments. “The trend is everywhere”, said Don Slavik, executive director of the United States Police Canine Association. “Once you train a behavior in a dog, it never goes away. They don’t want mistakes, that’s why they want to bring new dogs ”, he said.

In Massachusetts, where recreational marijuana became legal in 2016, the Quincy Police Department transferred two dogs from drug detection to patrol work, then removed them about 18 months later.

Two of the four K-9s in the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office (K-9 Drake and K-9 Link) are used for drug detection; the other two dogs (K-9 Jax and K-9 Bentley) are responsible for detecting explosives and detecting small items and explosives, respectively. Drake, Link, and Bentley are also used for patrols and for tracking people, making them an important tool for the department.

“Obviously, I believe our current narcotic dogs are valuable tools that should continue to function, in their specific legal capacity, as long as they are healthy,” Quattrone said. “Going forward, it’s pretty clear that we shouldn’t be certifying the detection of marijuana.”

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