Monday, May 4, 2015

News Briefs 5.4.15

Unemployment Gets a Little Bit Higher

The debate about legalizing marijuana is multi-faceted, prompting questions about the severity and risks of drug use, the validity of medical marijuana, and the future marijuana production industry. But a question I never considered is this: are we putting drug-sniffing dogs out of jobs?

See, dog employment is a critical issue. Really. Okay, maybe not really, but it's certainly an interesting one. In Oregon, marijuana will become legal on July 1, meaning that the police department's drug-sniffing dogs in an odd position. They're trained to recognize the scent of multiple drugs, including marijuana, but they can't signal the distinction between marijuana and cocaine, for example. They can only alert their handlers to the presence of drugs, and it's not possible to just turn off a dog's training to sniff out marijuana alone. Obviously, the police can't arrest someone for carrying a legal drug pointed out by a police dog, but even if someone is carrying, say, heroin, along with marijuana, the arrest is invalidated, just based on the chance that the dog sniffed out the marijuana and not the heroin. Oregon police are requesting dogs trained to recognize only the drugs that are now illegal in the state, or else considering using the dogs to track larger, still-illegal quantities of marijuana. But the fact that this is a discussion we have to have now is interesting to me.

It's an issue because training a drug-sniffing dog is an expensive venture, literally thousands of dollars' worth. Most are trained from puppyhood and require not just extensive training, but a good temperament and legions of people participating from the beginning stages to actual use in the field.

The legalization campaign has been noted for raising a frenzy of questions in its wake, from serious, society-probing questions to the more lighthearted issues like dog employment. But I think all of these things are important to discuss. Initiating any sort of legal change in society's rules forces us to confront all the repurcussions no matter their scale.

In case you were worried: Oregon PD promises that none of the dogs, if made to retire, will be euthanized. Some officers have offered to adopt the dogs they've worked with, if need be. Also, one of the dogs named in the article is called Narc and that makes me deliriously happy.


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