Today, anti-marijuana advocates offer a new, insane reason why we shouldn’t legalize weed. K-9 units are trained to detect a variety of illicit substances, including weed. However, once marijuana becomes legal, the police can no longer use these dogs. In a bid to protest legalization, the Illinois police threaten to kill their dogs if marijuana is legalized. This could mean euthanizing hundreds of dogs.
K9 Units: Retrain or Retire?
Police dogs are used all over the world to finding drugs. For years, this has meant training K-9 units to detect heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and, the most pungent of drugs, cannabis. For years, the police have used dogs to unofficially search people.
With the legalization of weed in a number of states with more to come this fall, many are wondering what to do with weed-sniffing dogs. Since it’s difficult to retrain dogs, some officials are suggesting that they’re better or training new K-9 Units.
Not only that, but some say that even attempting to retrain dogs is cruel. Director of K-9 Training Academy Chad Larner explained to the Pantagraph that retraining would be “extreme abuse” since their original training is deeply ingrained. Steve Petrilli of the Normal Police Department agreed. “At this point, they’re trained on five different odors. Once they’re programmed with that, you can’t just deprogram them,” he said.
Officials Are Threatening To Euthanize Police Dogs
Since there would be no use for these new dogs, some Illinois officials have announced that they’ll have to kill them. In Illinois alone, this would mean that the police would mean killing 275 dogs.
Not only that, but the state would have the burden of training a whole new set of dogs. Per dog, this amounts to around $20,000, not to mention the time and resources dedicated to this.
Why They Can’t Keep These K-9 Units
If Illinois were to legalize marijuana, these dogs would continue to sniff out weed. This means that the state technically still would be spending money on enforcing a now decriminalized substance.
Additionally, it would be difficult to tell whether a dog had stopped someone for cannabis, or another drug. This would be against the law. Larner elaborated, “We do not want to subject innocent citizens or motorists who travel through Illinois … to unlawful search and seizures.”
What Other States Are Doing
Illinois isn’t the first state to grapple with the complexities of legalization. Some states have kept their dogs on the force, attempting to retrain them. Police forces have retired others, who now live with the officers responsible for them on duty.
One of the main issues is that these dogs don’t necessarily interact well with others. This means that having these dogs as pets could be difficult.
The Future for K-9s in Illinois
Many are concerned by the implications of legalization in Illinois, whether it’s the cost of retraining police dogs or the moral implications of killing animals for something we trained them to do. Others view this issue as a distraction from the bigger picture. Illinois NORML directorDan Linn commented, “The idea that legalizing for adults to have an ounce on them will equal … all these dogs being euthanized, that seems kind of ridiculous and hyperbolic.”
By: Burgess Powell, HighTimes