Police K9s forced on unemployment for expertise in marijuana searches
Drug-sniffing dogs around the country are starting to work their ways to the unemployment line as marijuana laws continue to change state by state. Stosh, a K9 who has been with the Ocean County Sheriff’s Office in New Jersey for six years and has been involved in a number of drug arrests, was put on early retirement due to his training to seek out marijuana. Brutus, a nine-year-old narcotics German Shepard, also received the boot.
Not every single narcotics dog trained to spot out the scent of cannabis is being forced into retirement, however. While this trend is sweeping New Jersey and much of the nation, many departments are opting to keep their K9s on for patrol, search, and rescue.
As marijuana becomes legalized for both medical and recreational use around the country, cannabis-spotting K9s are no longer necessary. Their function is to provide the police with probable cause to search motor vehicles, residential homes, and buildings. They alert the officers when they recognize a substance in the vehicle. The dog’s scent alone was once enough to run a search.
However, as marijuana laws are changing and cannabis becomes legal in many circumstances, the police do not have the constitutional authority to search your vehicle by the scent of marijuana alone in states and jurisdictions where marijuana use is permitted. This is not to suggest that drivers under the influence cannot still be held legally liable for their crimes; driving under the influence of marijuana is a DUI in all 50 states.
Transporting marijuana from marijuana dispensaries, or clinics, on the other hand, is perfectly legal. The transportation would alert a dog trained that cannabis is in the car, but because that’s not illegal in many jurisdictions, it does not constitute a warrantless search. Police can still seek out a search warrant or perform sobriety checks if they suspect you to be under the influence of marijuana, but are not able to search your vehicle. Many dogs are being forced into retirement because they now alert officers of false alarms.