What does Michigan's legalization of recreational marijuana mean for drug-sniffing dogs?

Police dogs trained to pick up marijuana scent could become liability

By Jason Colthorp - Anchor/Reporter, Derick Hutchinson

DETROIT - What is the future for drug-sniffing dogs with the legalization of recreational marijuana in Michigan? While more dogs aren't being trained to pick up the scent of marijuana, many that were might now become a liability during their police work.

For example, if a police dog searches a car and finds it loaded with cocaine, but there's also two ounces of marijuana, that's now an illegal search. That doesn't mean current police dogs are out of a job, though.

"It's not a crisis," Michigan State Police Lt. Mike Shaw said. "It's something you need to look at."

The new law has changed how police dogs go about their jobs.

"You would use them for probable cause to gain entry to houses, cars," Shaw said. "Now you can't because marijuana is legal."

MSP's 55 dogs are cross-trained for several jobs, so they're still needed, even for marijuana.

"We also need them in places it's still illegal," Shaw said. "School, jails, etc."

The bottom line is the law means new training for the dogs going forward, something for which many departments have already prepared.

"In fact, the last five that were trained were not trained in marijuana," Shaw said.

Colorado is reportedly retiring some dogs early because of legalization, but Shaw said not to expect that in Michigan.

"Dogs are young," Shaw said. "They want to work. Nobody is retiring early to Florida."

Police dogs are versatile. They help search for cadavers, bombs and the glue in computers that indicates child porn, police said.

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