Measure 3 Could Leave Behind K-9 Units

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In November, North Dakota residents will be able to vote on the legalization of recreational marijuana.

Law enforcement groups have come out against the idea for various reasons.

According to police officers in Minot and Berthold, most police dogs in North Dakota are trained to sniff out marijuana.

Once a K-9 is trained to know that scent there is no way for the dog to “un-learn” it.

For example: K-9 dogs are trained to give the same signal when they get a hit on any of the drugs they’re trained to find. If a trained K-9 is wanted to search for meth, and gets a hit, there would be no way for officers to know if the dog detected meth or marijuana. Which violates your right of protection against unreasonable search. 

The dogs would not necessarily be useless in other states. It just means law enforcement entities here would need to invest in dogs not also trained to detect marijuana. 

The cops KX talked with say if the measure passes – K-9 units might not be useful to departments.

Hunter is a K9 with the Berthold Police Department. According to his owner and police chief, Al Schmidt, Hunter is a single-purpose K9 which means he is trained to find marijuana but if the measure passes Hunter would lose his purpose.

“Hunter would basically have to be retired,” said Al Schmidt, Berthold Police Chief.

“We wouldn’t have much grounds to use them on at that point,” said John Klug, Investigations Commander, Minot Police Department.

Klug says it can cost upwards of 20,000 dollars to train and purchase a police dog – a cost typically paid with tax dollars. If law enforcement has to retire its current K-9s because they are trained for a marijuana scent there could easily be more costs if the dogs get replaced.

“It’s not cheap and to replace all of the dogs with dogs that are not imprinted on marijuana could be quite taxing to the public,” said Schmidt.

Officer Schmidt says that even if the measure does pass, he still believes that the state will need to have K-9 units – just not those trained to sniff out marijuana.

“I believe they are needed because North Dakota still has a huge meth and heroin problem that the dogs are essential for battling those problems,” said Schmidt.

Klug says that other states and Canada have legalized marijuana and many departments in those areas retired their K9s that were trained in sniffing marijuana.

If a dog does have to retire, it would be the handlers option of what to do next.

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