animals

Pot-sniffing dogs out of a job as marijuana becomes legal in Oregon 

MEDFORD, Ore. — Narc and Cody are finding out there’s truth to the adage “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”

The two drug-sniffing canines that work for Medford police could face early retirement because they are too good at detecting marijuana, which will become legal July 1.

“It’s kind of sad,” Deputy Chief Brett Johnson said. “Nobody wants to see a dog lose its job.”

The issue arises because drug-sniffing dogs are often used to provide leads - probable cause - that can allow police to search people or property for drugs. If a suspect were carrying marijuana and heroin and a dog trained to smell both indicated the presence of a drug, any arrest could be invalidated, because the dog may have been smelling legal marijuana.

Because it’s difficult to retrain a dog on what to search for with its nose, one or both dogs may be phased out. Medford police have requested $24,000 in the upcoming city budget for new dogs trained to smell only heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine, and not marijuana. Each dog costs $12,000, an amount that includes extensive training and certification.