Illinois Police Threaten To Euthanize Their Dogs if Marijuana is Legalized

Anti-marijuana advocates offer a new, insane reason why we shouldn’t legalize weed.

According to a report from the Pantagraph, Illinois cops have said that if marijuana becomes legal they will have few other options than to euthanize K9 cops trained to detect the smell of ganja.

There are approximately 275 trained narcotic K-9s in Illinois, with each costing the department thousands of dollars. Replacing the dogs would cost millions, and Chad Larner, the director of Maron County’s K-9 Training Academy, said “retraining” the dogs would be “extreme abuse.”

“At this point, they’re trained on five different odors,” explained the Normal Police Department’s assistant police chief, Steve Petrilli, a former K-9 handler. “Once they’re programed with that, you can’t just deprogram them.” The dogs are also trained against being social in order to be effective workers, which led Larner to suggest “a number” of the K-9s would have to be euthanized in the event that marijuana is legalized, The Pantagraphwrites.

Marijuana advocates are skeptical about the threat. “The idea that legalizing for adults to have an ounce on them will equal … all these dogs being euthanized, that seems kind of ridiculous and hyperbolic,” the executive director of the advocacy group NORML, Dan Linn, told The Pantagraph. Petrilli likewise said the dogs would likely continue to live with their handlers in retirement, and in states where the drug has already been legalized, some K-9s have simply been retrained to ignore the (much more frequent) whiffs of pot.

If Illinois were to legalize marijuana, these dogs would continue to sniff out weed. This means that the state technically still would be spending money on enforcing a now decriminalized substance.

Additionally, it would be difficult to tell whether a dog had stopped someone for cannabis, or another drug. This would be against the law. Larner elaborated, “We do not want to subject innocent citizens or motorists who travel through Illinois … to unlawful search and seizures.”

Illinois isn’t the first state to grapple with the complexities of legalization. Some states have kept their dogs on the force, attempting to retrain them. Police forces have retired others, who now live with the officers responsible for them on duty.

Police dogs are used all over the world to finding drugs. For years, this has meant training K-9 units to detect heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and, the most pungent of drugs, cannabis. For years, the police have used dogs to unofficially search people.

With the legalization of weed in a number of states with more to come this fall, many are wondering what to do with weed-sniffing dogs. Since it’s difficult to retrain dogs, some officials are suggesting that they’re better or training new K-9 Units.

Not only that, but some say that even attempting to retrain dogs is cruel. Director of K-9 Training Academy Chad Larner explained to the Pantagraph that retraining would be “extreme abuse” since their original training is deeply ingrained. Steve Petrilli of the Normal Police Department agreed. “At this point, they’re trained on five different odors. Once they’re programmed with that, you can’t just deprogram them,” he said.

The assistant police chief in Normal, Illinois, and a Public Affairs Officer in Bloomington, Illinois both stated that local K-9 cops should be retired into domestic homes and not be killed if weed is legalized. One of the main issues is that these dogs don’t necessarily interact well with others. This means that having these dogs as pets could be difficult. For now, the euthanasia quote from the training director at Macon County’s K-9 Training Academy appears to be the exception to the rule, or even a misguided and inaccurate claim. Let’s hope so for our canna-K9 friends.

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