Culture

Drug-Sniffing Dogs Are Being Retrained to Ignore Pot

Culture

Drug-Sniffing Dogs Are Being Retrained to Ignore Pot

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Marijuana legalization/decriminalization isn’t just a bureaucratic issue navigated through years of intricate politcking; there are also plenty of practical issues that have to be deal with before “riding dirty” can be safely referred to as “riding legal.” For example, what about all of the police dogs that’ve been trained to sniff any whiff of the offending leaf? In Washington state, where voters legalized marijuana use last fall, the police departments in cities like Seattle have begun reprogramming that canine olfactory sense to ignore pot in favor of drugs that are way worse.

“We wanted to train our dog on what was truly illegal substances, that would be heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine,” officer Duke Roessel said to Talking Points Memo about the new normal, though the article also notes that some departments haven’t changed their protocols just yet. “What about trafficking? What about people who have more than an ounce?” said dog trainer Fred Helfers. “Overall, I think there’s still a large amount of agencies on a wait-and-see approach with their dogs.”

The tricky part is that dogs might not be able to unlearn their sniffing habits, nor are they able to distinguish how much of each drug they detect. It’s an all-or-nothing thing, and considering that it’s just the carrying of an ounce that’s now legal—the growing, selling and sharing is still puzzingly off-limits—more departments might slow their re-training roll. But if you live in Seattle and want to taste real freedom, go ahead and stroll about with that ounce in your pocket; both the law and the dog don’t care, which should be good enough for your judgmental parents.