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Police Dogs Trained to Sniff Out Pot Will Retire

VA State Police

Cannabis will be legal in Virginia on July 1st, and that’s prompting a change at police stations statewide.  Dozens of canines trained to detect illegal drugs will be retiring.

Thirteen dogs now working for state police will be leaving the force come July.  Spokesperson Shelby Crouch says they can no longer be used to provide the evidence needed for a search warrant.

“That dog is essentially an expert witness in court.  They can’t tell us, when they sit, ‘Oh that’s cocaine or that’s marijuana.’  They can only say when they sit, ‘This is a drug that I’ve been trained to smell.’”

But in Albemarle County, Police Captain Miller Stoddard says some may still be employed.

“They can still be used for apprehension.  They can still be used for tracking missing people or wanted subjects, and they can still be used for narcotics in a situation where a search warrant already exists.”

Still, anticipating a possible change in Virginia’s marijuana laws two years ago, he says, the county opted to replace a retiring canine with one that had not been trained to detect cannabis. 

The cost of a trained police dog is about $15,000, and Crouch says some smaller police departments will simply disband their canine unit. 

“$15,000, and we train our dogs in house – that’s a big chunk of change.”

The state says all 13 of its retiring pups will be adopted by their handlers.