Washington cops working to ‘desensitize’ drug dogs to marijuana smell

By Stephen C. Webster
Thursday, March 21, 2013 11:49 EDT
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A police drug-sniffing dog. Photo: Shutterstock.com.
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Police in Washington state are working to retrain their drug-sniffing dogs so that they’re less likely to alert when they smell marijuana.

The retraining is part of the state’s law enforcement reforms following November’s voter-backed legalization measure, which will ultimately require police to notify judges as to whether a drug dog used to obtain probable cause for a search has been trained to comply with state law.

“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,” Alison Holcomb, drug policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union, told KOMO News on Wednesday.

While most departments are going along with the change, including the Washington State Patrol, the Tacoma Police Department is refusing to comply, citing a memo from the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys that lets individual agencies continue searching for any substances that are still illegal under state law.

It is legal under Washington state law for adults over 21 to possess up to one ounce of marijuana. It is also legal to transfer marijuana to another person without payment. It is not legal, however, to sell the drug. Regulations governing industrial production and commercial distribution in the state are still being negotiated, even as the Obama administration considers whether to sue the state to block implementation.

Despite the threat of potential federal intervention, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) said after a January meeting with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder that he was not dissuaded, explaining that Holder was mostly concerned with how Washington plans to keep its pot within the state’s borders.

President Barack Obama also said in December that the government has “bigger fish to fry” than recreational marijuana users, leading eight former directors of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to speculate in an open letter published earlier in March that Obama may be abandoning the drug war.

This video is from KOMO News, aired Wednesday, March 20, 2013.


Photo: Shutterstock.com.

(H/T: Think Progress)

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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