Local and state law enforcement are making significant changes in preparation for Virginia’s new law legalizing recreational marijuana use.
The new law especially effects departments’ K-9 and narcotics teams.
Sergeant Scott Amos, a canine training coordinator with Virginia State Police, told NBC 12 that the new law means they will need to train new dogs because their current dogs are trained to smell marijuana.
“With the new legislation, we’ve had to retire those K9s and start with brand new K9s that are not trained to smell marijuana,” Amos said. “They’re going to be trained to search out methamphetamine, ecstasy, heroin and cocaine and different derivatives of those narcotics.”
“It’s really going to impact us,” admitted Alleghany County Sheriff Kevin Hall. “The ability to be able to search suspected vehicles for narcotics trafficking, and also those animals are used to search our schools on a random basis.”
Hall said that the Alleghany County Sheriff’s Department will likely lose two of their K-9s due to them becoming too costly to maintain for less uses. The loss of the dogs is expected to bear negatively on the department’s narcotics unit that uses them for suspect tracking as well.
It’s also very costly to replace the dogs and train new ones. Sheriff Hall says K-9s can cost upwards of $15,000. Although Hall said he could use the dogs solely for suspect tracking and apprehension as they are dual-trained, the money spent for drug detection training would have been a waste.
“Although it’s very important to us, there are some other things in the budget that’s really needed,” Hall said.
Chief Howard Hall of Roanoke County is also worried about other effects of the law.
“The implementation of this in my view is really irresponsible. It’s not well done. It is going to cause considerable problems,” said Chief Hall.
Henry County Sheriff’s Office will retire 5-year-old Kilo who holds several certifications and was used over 100 times in 3 years of service. He is trained in methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, and marijuana detection.
Virginia State Police said they retired 13 K9s in the wake of the new law, but recently began training 10 new K-9s to adapt to the new law. However, it is more difficult for smaller agencies with limited budgets to replace the loss of their current dogs.
Sheriff Hall says his team is going to get creative by fundraising to buy new dogs.