An Illinois police officer’s viral claim that legal recreational marijuana in his state will lead to euthanasia of police dogs has been debunked.
Earlier on Tuesday, Chad Larner, who is the director of the Macon County, Illinois K-9 Training Academy, claimed he was concerned for the fate of police dogs trained to sniff out marijuana and other drugs if marijuana was legalized statewide. According to Larner, many of the 275 certified narcotic detection police dogs could be euthanized in the event of statewide marijuana legalization. Larner’s reasoning was that because law enforcement K-9s are trained in a particular way, they likely wouldn’t be able to be re-trained to integrate into civilian society as a house pet.
Macon County Sheriff Howard Buffett piled on, saying legal marijuana could also be a financial burden on taxpayers, arguing police departments would have to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to train a entirely new crop of drug-sniffing dogs.
“The biggest thing for law enforcement is, you’re going to have to replace all of your dogs,” Buffett told the Bloomington Pantagraph. “So to me, it’s a giant step forward for drug dealers, and it’s a giant step backwards for law enforcements and the residents of the community.”
However, that isn’t the case in Colorado — the first state in the nation to fully implement legal recreational marijuana at the state level following the 2012 passage of Amendment 64. In an email, Denver Police Department spokesman Jay Casillas told Grit Post that despite full-scale legalization, many of the department’s police dogs are still used to sniff out large quantities of black market marijuana (MJ), methamphetamine, cocaine, and heroin.
“We continued to utilize these dogs because we still have a booming black market for MJ. We did begin training with larger amounts of marijuana (10 or more pounds). As these dogs have been retired (they usually stay with their police handlers and become their family pets) we purchased new dogs, a couple of these dogs have not been trained on MJ. So right now we have some dogs on MJ and some dogs off of MJ,” Casillas said. “This works for us depending on the type of investigation we are conducting.”
“We do not Euthanize any of our dogs,” he added. “Narc dogs make great pets, they are just well trained dogs that like to play fetch.”
Should the marijuana legalization ballot question make it to the November ballot in Illinois and win a majority of votes, the question is non-binding and would still require action from state lawmakers in order to become official.
Jake Shepherd is a freelance writer from Cleveland, Ohio. He enjoys poring through financial disclosure statements, spirited debate, and good scotch. He remains eternally optimistic about the Browns. Email him at jake.d.shepherd.21 (at) hotmail (dot) com.