Police Dogs Would Have To Be Killed If Illinois Legalizes Pot, One Official Says

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Photo Credit: Alexis P. Docherty

Legalizing marijuana could lead to possible euthanasia or early retirement for law enforcement K-9s already trained to sniff out the drug, according to Macon County officials.

Chad Larner, training director of the K-9 Training Academy in Macon County, went on to say in a Bloomington Pantagraph report that “a number of dogs would likely have to be euthanized” in the event that marijuana is legalized.

Police dogs are trained to alert to the presence of marijuana, heroin, cocaine and other drugs, and retraining them is usually impossible or impractical, according to the Pantagraph report.

Macon County Sheriff Howard Buffett said law enforcement would probably have to replace all its dogs if marijuana was legalized in the Pantagraph report.

Larner told the newspaper that retraining the dogs would lead to “extreme abuse.”

Illinois is considering a vote making it the 10th state to legalize marijuana for recreational use. Consequences have been lightened recently: up to 10g possession is now a civil offense punishable by a small fine, and medical marijuana is currently legal with a limited list of qualifying conditions set to expire in 2020.

A recent poll indicated that about 66 percent of Illinois residents support legalization.

Reaction to the statement quickly went viral on the social media website Reddit.

Oregon faced a similar problem a few years ago when recreational marijuana was legalized. The police dogs were retired or reassigned, because if they alerted to marijuana after it became legal, the entire search could be ruled inadmissible in court, according to the Oregonian.

Dogs that could not be reassigned were retired, and new dogs were being trained without marijuana before the law passed, as law enforcement saw “the writing on the wall,” the Oregonian reported at the time.

Of the 150 police dogs working in Oregon at the time of legalization, about 60 were solely drug-enforcement dogs, according to the Washington Post. Each dog costs approximately $12,000, including its extensive training. In most cases, the dogs were retired and usually adopted by their handlers.

Washington state also faced the issue when marijuana became legal in 2015, retiring dogs that could not be retrained, according to the Seattle Times. Large quantities of marijuana are still illegal in Washington, so some police agencies kept the pot-sniffing dogs “on staff” to help sniff out those quantities or in investigations of counterfeit currency, which is often found with drug residue.

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