Deuce, a German Shepard with the Aurora Police Department, is sniffing around tables and a barbeque at a picnic area outside a police station. After a few minutes, he sits and fixes his gaze on a plastic trash can.
Deuce’s handler, Sgt. Brandon Samuels, removes a one-pound bag of marijuana he planted for the exercise.
“Guh’ boy!” Samuels said, tossing Deuce a rubber toy.
The Aurora Police Department is one of a number of Colorado law enforcement agencies that trains dogs on marijuana, a legal substance in Colorado. Canines at other agencies in the state ignore pot. A recent court decision has drawn attention to that wide range of policies — and left some wondering if pot-sniffing dogs, like Deuce, are overqualified for their jobs.
The core of the matter is Kilo, another pot-sniffing dog with the Moffat County Sheriff’s Office. In 2015, officers deployed Kilo to inspect Kevin McKnight’s truck during a vehicle stop. Officers searched the truck following his alert and found a meth pipe containing white residue. Prosecutors used the evidence to convict McKnight on two counts related to drug possession.
The Colorado Court of Appeals recognized a problem. Like Deuce, Kilo can detect cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, methamphetamine and marijuana. Neither dog can indicate which substance it found or the amount.
Since certain amounts of marijuana are legal in Colorado, a three-judge panel ruled Kilo’s sniff an illegal search under state law. As a result, the court said the evidence should not have been admitted in the original trial. The decision overturned McKnight’s conviction.
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