The legalization of marijuana has proven to be a very complex issue, mired by many legal questions.
Among the questions this process has opened for governments and law enforcement is one that has yet to be answered — what will legalization mean for police canines trained to treat pot as illegal?
Police drug dogs are generally trained to sniff out a host of contraband, which includes marijuana. They can’t tell their handlers what drug they smelled — just that they found something.
but with marijuana set to be Legalized, searches based on the findings of drug-detecting dogs will most certainly be facing legal issues going forward.
“If the law is very clear that you don’t have grounds to believe the person has committed a criminal offence, then you cannot search, so the dog adds nothing,” said Cannabis Lawyer Paul Lewin.
Adults 18 and older would be allowed to publicly possess up to 30 grams of dried cannabis, or its equivalent in non-dried form. Any more than 30 grams will be illegal.
“The presence of cannabis in and of itself was evidence of a criminal offence, but if it’s legal, then the presence of cannabis doesn’t prove anything,” said Paul Lewin.
From a police standpoint, many departments are opting to continue with their approach in training police dogs.
“Each organization will have to decide how they want to train their dogs, but I know specifically, we aren’t going to retire or retrain our current dogs,” said Sgt. Jason Gunderson, President of the Canadian Police Canines Association.
“I don’t think you’re going to see anything mandated from the federal government, and so long as illegal trafficking still exists, I believe there will be a need for police dogs.”
So What will legalization mean for police canines trained to treat pot as illegal?
At this point – No one really knows.
In Colorado, which legalized marijuana for recreational use in 2014, the role of drug-sniffing dogs was in court battles up until July of this year, when the Colorado appeals court ruled that a positive response from a drug-sniffing dog is not enough to justify a search.
In the months since, various police departments in Colorado have slowly adapted their training protocols to exclude marijuana from the substances their dogs are trained to respond to.
So far, Canada isn’t learning from Colorado’s example.