Pubdate: Sat, 31 Jan 2015
Source: Alaska Dispatch News (AK)
Copyright: 2015 Alaska Dispatch Publishing
Note: Anchorage Daily News until July '14


JUNEAU (AP) - The legalization of marijuana in Alaska is putting some 
police dogs out of work.

Ten drug-sniffing dogs used by the Alaska State Troopers will be 
taken out of service when recreational use of marijuana becomes legal 
Feb. 24, the Juneau Empire reported.

The 10 Belgian malinois, Dutch shepherds, German shepherds, Czech 
shepherds and yellow Labrador retrievers have been trained to sniff 
out pot, heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine. The troopers' K-9 unit 
had 141 felony arrests and 64 misdemeanor arrests in 2013.

Since the dogs can't be untrained to ignore marijuana, they will have 
to be retired and new dogs will have to be trained to be on the alert 
for the last three illegal substances.

The existing dogs have to be replaced because the new law prohibits 
law enforcement from using the presence of legal amounts of marijuana 
to justify search and seizure for illegal amounts of pot or other drugs.

"If that very core piece is thrown out, that destroys the rest of the 
case, no matter the crime," said Department of Public Safety 
Commissioner Gary Folger.

Folger said during a House Finance subcommittee meeting Thursday that 
to buy new dogs and train them and their troopers will cost "no less 
than $50,000 a dog," or $500,000 to replace the current pack.

"That's actually a pretty weighty issue, bringing a whole new team of 
dogs into play, if you will," said public safety subcommittee 
chairman Rep. Bryce Edgmon, D-Dillingham.

Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Megan Peters said in an email 
to the Empire that there isn't a timeline in place yet to replace the 
dogs or a decision from where the replacements will come.

Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, R-Anchorage, wondered if the dogs could be 
trained to identify marijuana in amounts greater than 1 ounce, which 
will be the cutoff for legal possession.

Folger said that wasn't possible.

"A dog cannot detect a difference between 1 ounce or less," he said.

Troopers are considering options including adoption for the retiring dogs.

LeDoux asked if the dogs could be sold to states that haven't 
legalized marijuana.

Folger said it's possible but unlikely. "Once the cohesion is made 
between the trainer and his dog, it's a bond that's not easily broken," he said.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom