Have you heard that cannabis in virtually all forms has been essentially decriminalized in both Ohio and Texas, historically two of the least weed-friendly states in the nation? Yeah, it wasn’t voted on by any citizens or lawmakers, it just sort of happened… or, rather, was forced upon the two canna-conservative states as a result of the 2018 Farm Bill which legalized hemp back in December of 2018.
What does hemp have to do with cannabis? Well, everything, technically. The 2018 Farm Bill set a precedent in the federal government’s admission that hemp is cannabis and the suit in DC defined it as any cannabis plant containing no more than 0.3% THC.
Clearly, the politicians who pushed that hemp legalization had no idea of the scale of the clusterfuck they would create by doing so. Now, not only are the Feds bumbling through a framework of regulation specifically for hemp-derived CBD, even though they have completely removed the plant from the Controlled Substances Act, but even non-intoxicating raw hemp flowers are causing quite a buzz in communities across America.
That’s what has happened in Ohio and Texas. Cops can’t use their naked eye to tell the difference between legal hemp flowers and illegal cannabis flowers and so, in order to avoid potential legal backlash or embarrassing losses in court, they’d rather just stay away from it all altogether.
Cheap roadside drug tests have always been unreliable but even if they “work” all they can do is detect the presence of THC (or not), but not at what quantity it exists in the sample. That left cops with one last option, the K9.
Drug sniffing dogs make up a good chunk of the mere 0.5% of dogs on the planet that I do not walk up to and pet immediately.
Did you know that when doggos inhale fresh air, a flap of tissue just inside their schnoot separates the pathway in the nostril so that exhaled air travels a slightly different path.
Diving deeper, dogs have up to 300 million olfactory receptors in their noses. Humans, by comparison, have about six million. Also, while both dogs and humans have a part of their brain that is devoted to analyzing smells, theirs is ruff-ly 40x larger than ours, pound for pound.
With that sort of supersniffing bred into their DNA, mixed with intense training at some Puppy Police Academy, surely these drug detection K9 units can help sweep the streets of any weed with 0.31% THC or more, right?
Well even before cannabis legalization and the criminal justice reform being attached to it got into gear around 2014, the Chicago Tribune conducted a study on cop dogs reviewing three years’ worth of data from local police records. They found that just 44% of positive signals from these dogs (meaning, they think they have found targeted paraphernalia) resulted in the actual discovery of that targeted paraphernalia. Amazingly, in a country that refuses to admit bias in its “justice” system, that number dropped even lower to 27% in cases involving Hispanic suspects. When that dog “alerts”, they don’t fuck around. At best, your day is ruined but, of course, it can get much worse.
But once cannabis started to become legal on the state level - first with medical marijuana laws spreading rapidly and now as we see more states get onboard with recreational adult use cannabis laws – this shocking level of inaccuracy became a liability.
Take California, for example. Most of the state’s drug-sniffin’ pooches go through a form of boot camp where they are trained to bark or sit when they smell heroin, coke, heroin, meth or weed. The civil rights issue now is that these dogs give the same alert no matter which of those four targets they detect. When Cali legalized the adult use and possession of weed for anyone 21 years or older back in 2016, it suddenly became easier for cops to bust people carrying not only X amount of Coke, heroin, or meth, but firearms, warrants, and more. That’s fucked up. Whether it is illegal to have any of those items or not, we still have rights as U.S. citizens against illegal search and seizure. So court cases involving crimes uncovered by legal cannabis possession remain a controversy in California and actual criminals could walk free thanks to the legal weed they happened to have on them. Did the dog smell the pot? Or the gun? Or the coke? Your Honor, we argue that it smelled this LOUD ASS OG, which is legal, we rest our case.
As these furry and unreliable witnesses jeopardize their departments’ best source of revenue (robbing suspects), rumors have swirled for the past few years that it might be time to retire the drug-sniffing dog once and for all. In California, there are only about 40 of them throughout the entire state, and authorities say they have no plans to end their service anytime soon.
Police departments have a minimum of $10,000 invested in each K9 animal and retraining them would be difficult. New “recruits” could potentially be trained to “ignore” cannabis by not rewarding its discovery during training, but costly court challenges would likely chew up that option as well.
Now the problem is nationwide due to the instant proliferation of the hemp plant. In places where actual stony THC-packed pot is still highly illegal, folks are takin’ tokes of totally legal hemp buds that look and smell (sort of) like the “real” thing… and cops and their dogs don’t know what to do.
This has led to not only de facto decriminalization of weed in of all places Ohio, but now the Ohio Highway Patrol has announced that it has suspended all marijuana-detection training for their 31 drug-sniffing dogs hoping to eliminate any complications of “probable cause” for prosecutors pursuing drug convictions involving evidence other than just cannabis.
Ending their training is fine, but if any one of those dogs is deployed on a potential crime scene there will absolutely be some probable cause. It’s time for those pups to chase tennis balls in a field somewhere for the rest of their days. That early retirement is already happening for K9 units in Colorado and Oregon, the two main weathervanes for the way the cannabis winds will blow across the rest of the country.
It’s time to let dogs get back to sniffin’ ass instead of sniffin’ grass.
Plus, I wanna pet ‘em.