As more and more states legalize marijuana, police departments are supposed to adapt and change the way they operate. And one of the key changes may have to do with drug-sniffing dogs.
Specifically, police departments are increasingly having to figure out what function drug-sniffing dogs might play in a new legal landscape. Most recently, the state of Michigan appears to be on a path toward no longer training dogs to detect cannabis.
No More Cannabis Sniffing Dogs in Michigan?
As reported by the South Bend Tribune, which covers news in both Indiana and Michigan, cops in Michigan are no longer training dogs to detect marijuana.
The change comes in response to the state’s new legalization of recreational cannabis. Now that weed is legal, cops can no longer use marijuana as a pretext for stopping, searching, or otherwise interacting with people.
And that also means that dogs can’t be used to sniff out marijuana as a pretext for stopping people.
In this context, cops are changing the way K9 units operate. As has always been the case, when a dog is retired, a new dog is trained to take its place.
But now, there is a key difference. Specifically, these new dogs are no longer being trained to sniff out and react to marijuana.
As per the South Bend Tribune, new K9s will still be trained to detect a number of illegal substances. This includes things like meth, heroin, cocaine, and crack. But no longer will police dogs be trained to detect cannabis.
Changing Laws, Changing Policing Practices
In weed-legal states, police dogs that still sniff out marijuana can actually create a number of legal problems.
The most dangerous thing about marijuana-sniffing dogs is that they could end up violating a person’s legal rights in weed-legal states.
For example, a case in Colorado turned controversial because the K9 involved in the case was trained to sniff out weed.
In the case, the accused was actually arrested for meth. But the police dog used in the case is also trained to react to cannabis. As a result, it’s impossible to tell whether or not the dog initiated the original stop because it smelled weed.
Ultimately, an appeals court ruled that the original search was illegal, since it may have been triggered by weed instead of something illegal.
What About Dogs Already Trained for Marijuana?
While Michigan’s decision to stop training new dogs to smell marijuana seems to solve the dilemma moving forward, what about the dogs that are already being used by cops?
Michigan police say that most of these dogs can still serve other purposes, outside of detecting drugs and cannabis.
For example, many of these dogs can be used for search and rescue operations. Similarly, many of these dogs have also been trained to protect officers, and these dogs can continue doing that instead of looking for drugs or marijuana.
And in some cases, dogs might still be used to detect marijuana. That’s because even though it is legal for adults in Michigan to possess and consume marijuana, there are still some situations where weed is illegal.
Most notably, people are not allowed to possess weed in places like schools, jails, or prisons. And cops said they might continue to use marijuana-sniffing dogs in these locations.