BREMERTON, Wash. - Now that marijuana is legal in Washington state, police departments have a problem -- their drug-sniffing dogs haven't gotten the message.
Once the pups are trained to find marijuana they will look for it no matter what the law says.
Apparently you can't teach an old dog that particular trick.
So, Washington State Patrol spokesman Bob Calkins said his agency will be training new narcotics detection dogs and they won't be introduced to pot.
"It's problematic because the dogs could alert on a legal amount of marijuana and then we're violating someone's privacy," Calkins said.
He said there's also a concern that if a dog were to find a valuable piece of evidence because his sniffer encountered a legal amount of pot, all the evidence might be thrown out in court. For example, if a dog sniffs out a legal amount of marijuana and a gun used in a murder is found with it, a judge might rule that the gun isn't admissible in court.
Police departments around the state also are recruiting young dogs with no marijuana-hunting ability.
Dusty, an 18-month-old black Lab, is the first new hire in Bremerton so trained.
While he was bred to be a champion birding dog, his drive to look for things made him "perfect for what we need," said Officer Dahle Roessel.
Roessel points out that, should state law change, it would be easy to bring the dog up to speed on the scent of pot.
"We can train them on marijuana in a weekend," he said.
Suquamish police also have a new dog, an 18-month-old golden Lab-pit bull mix named Loki who just come out of training with the state's Department of Corrections. Loki is a post-pot pup, too.
Poulsbo police don't have a dog, but Chief Al Townsend said he'll make getting one a priority. That new dog won't be trained to find pot, either.
"It will just complicate things so much in doing the search and trying to get a warrant," he said of having a dog trained in marijuana detection. "If things change, you can add the drug (to the dog's repertoire) but it's tough to get rid of it."
(Contact Josh Farley of The Kitsap Sun in Bremerton, Wash., at firstname.lastname@example.org )