MD marijuana legalization causing concerns for K-9 units statewide, local law enforcement officials weigh in
MARYLAND – “So we’re in a little bit of limbo right now on what the new law means,” Sheriff Gamble said.
The legalization of recreational marijuana for Maryland adults 21 and over goes in effect July 1st.
It’s a move that could potentially impact the way K-9 units operate statewide. “Right now, if a vehicle is stopped and the dog hints the odor of marijuana emanating from the vehicle, that’s probable cause to search the vehicle,” Worcester County Sheriff Matt Crisafulli said.
“After July 1st, 2023, there may be some challenges that come up and they’ll have to be determined by a court of law.”
With marijuana legalization, Marylanders 21 and older can legally possess up 1.5 ounces of the substance. If someone is caught before July 1st with 1.5 ounces of marijuana, they’ll receive a civil offense with a maximum fine of up to $100. Anything more than 2 ounces will be a criminal offense, facing up to six months in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.
Talbot County Sheriff Joe Gamble says the concern is those four-legged officers are trained to detect odor, not quantity. “If that’s the case, then our eldest dog Raven would probably have to be retired. There’s some talk that these dogs can be untrained in marijuana but that too is costly,” Sheriff Gamble said.
“Maryland legislature passed a law that you actually have to pay for a medical plan for a dog you retire.”
That’s why Sheriff Gamble says his office is already putting plans into action. “Two of our dogs that we got recently are not trained in marijuana. We did that because we felt the law would change,” Gamble said.
Although the implementation and other factors of the new law are still up in the air, law enforcement officials we spoke with say. “It’s a valuable tool. They’re well worth the money. If we have to buy more we will buy more because we have to do the best, we can keep our communities and schools safe,” Sheriff Gamble said.
Sheriff Gamble tells us police dogs can cost anywhere from 10 to 15-thousand dollars. So, it will be costly if its determined departments will have to replace those officers.
As of now, Sheriff Crisafulli says his office has no plans to change their k9-officer training and will await further guidance.