Image via PotDogsUSA
Legalizing weed causes all sorts of awesome unintended consequences. Crime reduces, school systems strengthen, opiate use goes down and ice cream sales go up.
But one consequence of legalization no one saw coming: drug-sniffing dogs that smell might be forced into early retirement. A recent case in Grand Junction ruled that, since weed is legal in Colorado, cops can’t legally search a car without consent–even if a trained drug-sniffing dog smells that weed:
“Because Amendment 64 legalized possession for personal use of one ounce or less of marijuana by persons 21 years of age or older in Colorado, it is no longer accurate to say, at least as a matter of state law, that an alert by a dog which can detect marijuana — but not specific amounts — can reveal only the presence of ‘contraband,’” Judge Daniel Dailey wrote in the ruling, which was joined by Judges Michael Berger and Jerry Jones.
In the case at hand, a trained drug dog named Kilo (good one) alerted cops to a suspicious substance in a vehicle. The cops found a meth pipe on the car’s owner, and charged him with “possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of a controlled substance.”
The issue? Kilo wasn’t just trained to sniff out meth: he was also trained to sniff for weed (and other drugs). So since the dog might have simply been smelling a legal substance, the judges ruled against the state and for the meth pipe:
“A dog sniff could result in an alert with respect to something for which, under Colorado law, a person has a legitimate expectation of privacy,” the court added. “Because a dog sniff of a vehicle could infringe upon a legitimate expectation of privacy solely under state law, that dog sniff should now be considered a ‘search’ for purposes of (the amendment) where the occupants are 21 years or older.” [GJ Sentinel]
Legal weed…unintentionally helping meth pipe owners stay out of jail since 2017!
(This isn’t the first time weed sniffing dogs have come under fire. Vermont’s drug dogs no longer get trained to smell weed, and the federal court prohibits cops from waiting for drug dogs to arrive at traffic stops.)