States that legalized marijuana face drug dog dilemma

Posted at 10:19 PM, May 22, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-23 00:19:35-04

Meet Augie, a hard working dog with the Nampa Police Department.  His nose knows how to find 4 different drugs: meth, heroin, cocaine and marijuana. But if Idaho's laws were to change and recreational marijuana became legal, many drug dogs in the state could end up in the doghouse.

"We will cross that bridge when we come to it," said Lieutenant Joe Ramirez of the Nampa Police Department. "The single purpose dogs -- I think we would have to probably retire those dogs." 

That is what happened in Oregon after recreational marijuana was legalized. Many officers worried using marijuana sniffing dogs would present some problems. While you can teach an old dog new tricks, teaching them to forget one is much harder. So, Oregon State Police retired or sold eight of their dogs. They are now making the switch to dogs that can sniff out meth, heroin, and cocaine, but not marijuana.  

"We could continue to do business with marijuana dogs, it would just make our job a little bit harder in court, so we decided it would be easier to focus on the three other drugs," said Corporal Clay Core with Oregon State Police.

Police departments in Oregon have still found some use for marijuana sniffing dogs. Oregon State Police say they are used in large scale drug bust operations and places where pot is not allowed such as schools and jails. 

While recreational marijuana became legal in Oregon two years ago, Oregon State Police say they are still working to get fully staffed when it comes to drug dogs. A drug dog can cost anywhere between $5,000 and $10,000.  

"We can't just buy eight to ten new dogs right off the bat. That's a very expensive thing, and it also takes a lot in training hours," said Corporal Core. 

Back home in Idaho, the POST Academy says there are about 115 certified four-odor drug dogs in the state. While there are no bills in the works to legalize recreational marijuana in the Gem State, The Nampa Police Department tells 6 On Your Side it will continue to uphold the law and adjust if needed.

"We understand, in law enforcement, change is inevitable, based on what the court decide or what one judge sometimes decides," said Lieutenant Ramirez. "So we roll with it and readjust and always train our officers to be professionals and always be on the side of the law."