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Ak: Pot Legalization Puts Alaska Drug-Sniffing Dogs Out Of‏ Work

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Website: http://www.adn.com/
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/18
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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