What Happens to Drug-Sniffing Dogs When Marijuana is Legalized in Canada?

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What happens to drug-sniffing dogs when marijuana is legalized in Canada? 980 CFPL By Andrew Lawton

From how it’s sold to what the health implications are, the impending legalization of marijuana has proven complex, to say the least.

Among the questions this process has opened for governments and law enforcement is one that has yet to be answered — what will legalization mean for police canines trained to treat pot as illegal?

At this point, no one really knows.

Police drug dogs are generally trained to sniff out a host of contraband that includes marijuana. These four-legged officers can’t tell their handlers what drug they smelled — just that they found something, typically indicated by sitting down.

Often, this justifies searching a suspect or their vehicle.

Legalized marijuana will put searches based on the findings of drug-detecting dogs in precarious territory, according to two legal experts, who say court challenges are not only likely but inevitable.

“If you’re in a car or you’re walking along the street and a police sniffer dog indicates that marijuana is in your vehicle or on your person, there’s no reasonable or probable grounds to believe a criminal offence has been committed, so it gives (police) nothing,” said Toronto-based criminal lawyer Paul Lewin, who specializes in laws and regulations surrounding marijuana.

When the drug is legalized on July 1, 2018, it won’t be without restrictions. But the mere presence of marijuana is no longer cause to suspect wrongdoing unless there are other criteria leading a police officer to believe someone is in non-compliance with the Cannabis Act, which a drug-detecting dog wouldn’t know.

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