Washington: Police Retraining Drug Dogs Not To Sniff For Now-Legal Marijuana

(Photo: The Raw Story)By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

One of the happiest readjustments having to be made after Washington state voters approved marijuana legalization measure I-502 last November is underway: the police are retraining drug-sniffing dogs not to sniff for cannabis, because it's now legal for adults to possess up to an ounce in the Evergreen State.

Since the smell of marijuana no longer automatically means a crime has taken place, that changes the constitutional status of a police drug-detecting dog alerting on your property, reports Ian Millhiser at Think Progress.

If a dog is trained to sniff out marijuana and it alerts after sniffing an adult suspect, it no longer necessarily means a crime has taken place, because the dog likely only reacted to the presence of cannabis on the suspect.

So marijuana-sniffing dogs can no longer provide "probable cause" that a suspect is engaged in criminal activity, because the dogs are trained to alert when suspects are doing something that is no longer illegal under state law.

As a result of this dilemma, several police departments in Washington are retraining their drug-detecting dogs. Many law enforcement agencies around the state, including the Seattle Police Department and the Washington State Patrol, will no longer be training their dogs to alert for marijuana.

Sgt. Sean Whitcomb said the Seattle Police Department is "already taking steps" to desensitize its dogs to marijuana, through rewards and training.

But some law enforcement agencies in Washington, including the Tacoma Police Department, continue to use dogs trained to alert on marijuana, reports Stephen C. Webster at The Raw Story. These dogs can no longer be relied upon exclusively to justify a "probable cause" search, and this is confirmed by a memo from the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys.

(Photo: The Raw Story)