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Police under pressure to retrain drug dogs after marijuana legalized in 2 states

Police under pressure to retrain drug dogs after marijuana legalized in 2 states
  • May 30, 2013: A drug-sniffing police dog is shown at a training session at a police station in Bremerton, Wash.AP

Police in Washington state and Colorado are trying to teach old dogs to unlearn an old trick.

For as long as dogs have been trained to assist police officers, they’ve been helping make drug busts. But now that the recreational use of marijuana is legal in those two states, officers are in a K-9 quandary.

“We’ll have to look for other indicators,” said Bob Calkins of the Washington State Patrol. “We’ll have to develop cases other ways.”

Adjusting to the new laws, the Washington State Patrol is training new dogs to not react to pot. Existing K-9 units will be phased out. And other agencies are forcing their drug dogs into early retirement and will go without them.

But Officer Darryl Lobe, who’s been a K-9 handler in Bothell, Wash., for over a decade, says that’s a big mistake.

“I’ve talked to individuals that I’ve arrested and they told me that without the dog, we wouldn’t have gotten anything,” Lobe said.

At issue is the legality of searches, now that possessing up to an ounce of marijuana is legal. Voter initiatives passed in Washington state and Colorado last November. Police departments are wondering if drug dog searches will violate citizen rights. They’re also concerned about courts throwing out evidence of other crimes collected during a follow-up search, which could lead to dangerous criminals getting off on a technicality.

Mary Fan, a law professor at the

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