Friday, March 22, 2013

Washington drug dogs retrained to ignore marijuana

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Drug-sniffing dog

Sign of the times: Drug-sniffing dogs are about to have a lot more free time in Washington State now that recreational pot has been legalized, as police departments are already starting to adapt their training:

The passage of I-502 made things difficult enough for the humans tasked with creating and enforcing the laws for legal marijuana. Now, try explaining the difference between "personal use" and "intent to sell" or the gray area between state and federal law to a dog.

That's why many law-enforcement agencies around the state, including the Seattle Police Department and Washington State Patrol, will no longer be training their drug-sniffing dogs to alert for marijuana.

“Moving forward, it makes most sense not to train dogs to alert to marijuana as that would likely lead to unwarranted investigatory detentions of people who are not breaking any law," said Alison Holcomb, author of I-502 and drug policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union.

The Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys sent out a memo advising the state's law-enforcement agencies that narcotics dogs are no longer required to be trained to alert for marijuana in December. And, marijuana was removed from the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission's Canine Performance Standards test in January.

Such a move is made particularly relevant in the wake of the gob-smackingly bad Supreme Court ruling in February that essentially declared drug-detection dogs to be “probable cause on a leash” despite their craptacular track record (which often results from human vice).