Illinois police worried about sniffer dogs losing jobs when marijuana is legalized

Ismail Akwei May 08, 2018
K-9 officer Roy checks the side of an automobile during a training session. Photo: The Pantagraph

Nine states in the United States and Washington, DC, have legalized marijuana for recreational use while 29 states have legalized medical marijuana.

The nine states include Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington. Adults over the age of 21 do not need a letter from a doctor to smoke marijuana.

However, in Illinois – where the state decriminalized possession of a small amount in 2016 – lawmakers are deliberating on legalizing marijuana but the police have one major concern.

“The biggest thing for law enforcement is, you’re going to have to replace all of your dogs. So to me, it’s a giant step forward for drug dealers, and it’s a giant step backwards for law enforcement and the residents of the community,” Macon County Sheriff Howard Buffett told local newspaper The Pantagraph.

Buffet believes the hundreds of detection dogs who were trained for months to sniff out and alert officers to the presence of marijuana, heroin, cocaine and other drugs, will have to be retrained or retired. This will cost the state millions of dollars to do.

The transition was successfully done in other states like Washington where they attempted to retrain the dogs to ignore marijuana. They also trained new police dogs to smell all narcotics other than cannabis, reports the newspaper.

For Chad Larner, the training director of the K-9 Training Academy in Macon County, the idea of retraining dogs will amount to extreme abuse to change their mindset. He added that it will take extensive training to do.

It will take 8 to 16 weeks to train a K-9 and cost between $3,000 to $5,000, not including the time commitment, overtime costs or advanced training. Depending on the dog’s breed, training and purpose, the price of an animal can range anywhere from $8,000 to $16,000 each, the paper estimated.

The Illinois Sheriffs’ Association and the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, also backed the opposition to legalization of marijuana.

This was unacceptable to Dan Linn, the executive director of the marijuana advocacy group Illinois NORML who calls their opposition a “red herring.”

“The idea that legalizing for adults to have an ounce on them will equal … all these dogs being euthanized, that seems kind of ridiculous and hyperbolic,” he said.

A Gallup poll released in 2017 indicated that 64% of Americans favour legalization of marijuana. The industry is believed to have posted nearly $10 billion in sales in 2017.

Last Edited by:Ismail Akwei Updated: May 8, 2018


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