– When Dusty, a 19-month-old black Labrador, walked past a pipe full of marijuana during a recent police search of a house, he was doing exactly what his handler hoped.
The newest drug-sniffing dog on the police force in Bremerton, near Seattle, is one of a few police dogs in Washington state that are not trained to point out pot during searches. Other police departments are considering or in the midst of re-training their dogs to ignore pot as well, part of the new reality in a state where voters last fall legalized marijuana use.
"We wanted to train our dog on what was truly illegal substances, that would be heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine," said Dusty's handler, Officer Duke Roessel, who added that Dusty nabbed five pounds of meth during that recent search.
Police departments in Bremerton, Bellevue and Seattle, as well as the Washington State Patrol, have either put the dogs through pot desensitization training or plan not to train them for marijuana detection.
Police say that having a K-9 unit that doesn't alert to pot will lessen challenges to obtaining search warrants because the dog won't be pointing out possible legal amounts of the drug. Traditionally, dogs are trained to alert on the smell of marijuana, heroin, crack cocaine, methamphetamine and cocaine. They can't tell which one it is or how much of each there is.more