According to O.Berk, in 48 out of 50 states, some form of medical marijuana is legal, except for Nebraska and Idaho. Within those 48 states, many states are expanding on how much is legal and which variants. Recreational use of Marijuana is legal in 18 states, as well. This presents an obstacle for drug-sniffing dogs (K-9).
While K-9 dogs can detect many different drugs, the problem occurs when differentiating between certain narcotics. The dogs have the same behaviors for every narcotic they identify, which is unproductive in states where cannabis is legal. This can be dangerous, as any drug detection is costumed to search under the Fourth Amendment. According to the Independent, K-9’s are being trained in California, Oregon, Maine, Vermont, and Canada not to identify cannabis for this sole problem.
Some states are planning to make sure they don’t have to phase out dogs trained to find cannabis. Ron Cloward, a K-9 trainer in California, claimed that the dogs planned to go to Texas were requested to “not put marijuana on” when training them. He claimed that they “had the feeling there could be some changes coming there, and they wanted to plan ahead.”
In Virginia, where they legalized up to an ounce of cannabis, 15 K-9s retired, claims Forbes.
While the spread of legalization of cannabis is a probable cause for the retirement of many K-9s, there is also questioning regarding the accuracy of the dogs in general. According to Reason, drug-sniffing dogs are only reliable about 50% of the time. Forbes claims that dogs detect subtle cues from their handlers, which can taint their search.
Not only is unreliability an issue, but many courts aren’t confident of the work of drug-sniffing dogs. A case in Utah noted serious concerns about a K-9’s “training and reliability,” states Tech Dirt.
Drug sniffing dogs are losing their jobs because of the spread of cannabis and because they lack consistency and aren’t looked at as reliable evidence in Federal Court.