QUINCY (CBS) – At three years old Carl is one of the Quincy Police Department’s highly trained narcotics sniffing dogs, but today there’s one drug he’ll pass by and it’s marijuana. “We’ve trained dogs to walk by a field of marijuana and there’s no interest. They’re simply looking for opioids,” said Quincy K-9 officer Lt. Robert Gillan.
Once Carl finds the opioids he’s fixated and waiting for his reward. Since marijuana has been legalized in Massachusetts police departments have had to rethink their training to stay ahead of the dealers. “We can see where the national trend is going. We’re going to stop using marijuana as a base odor for training,” said Lt. Gillan.
But for Shaggy, a drug sniffing dog who’s been on the force for the ten years, it’s meant retirement. He’s got a nose for pot and his skills have become a liability. “Once you imprint an odor on them they don’t forget it,” said Officer Brian Mahoney.
If a dog’s nose is trained for a substance that is now legal the police search for narcotics creates a legal loophole that won’t hold up in court. Especially since police say some dealers are purposely planting marijuana amid other illegal substances to create an illegal search.
Criminal defense attorneys like Richard Sweeney are looking for that loophole. “If a dog alerts to marijuana everything in the search is thrown out, even if other drugs are out there,” said Sweeney.
He admits the new training now makes his job a little tougher. “If the answer is no when I ask a police officer if the dog is trained in marijuana, it limits that line of questioning,” Sweeney said.
It’s also tough for Shaggy who has become one of many newly unemployed canines the state. “He would be happy to come back to work tomorrow if he could,” said Mahoney. But for police departments they have to teach the new dogs different tricks.