Marijuana-sniffing dogs are losing their jobs as recreational weed becomes legalized


Some highly skilled workers are finding themselves out of work due to major policy changes impacting their industry.

In Virginia, where recreational marijuana will become legal later this year, drug-sniffing dogs are being retired early, a trend other states have also experienced, the Associated Press reported. Thirteen dogs with the Virginia state police are being retired, while many more being retired by smaller departments.

Some are replacing their K-9s with newly trained pups that only recognize still-illicit drugs, while are others are ending their dog programs because they cannot afford the $15,000 a newly trained dog would cost, according to AP.

The Virginia General Assembly passed a bill in April that allows for the legal possession of one ounce of marijuana. Gov. Ralph Northam later signed the bill, which goes into effect on July 1. Since 2012, 16 states have legalized recreational marijuana and many more have legalized marijuana use for medical reasons.

Drug-sniffing dogs are trained to detect, primarily with their sense of smell, a range of illegal drugs. Their sense of smell is 2,000 times stronger than humans, according to security firm ICTS. The dogs typically react the same way regardless of the drug they are detecting.

"Sniffer dogs have totally no interest in the drugs themselves. What they're actually searching for is their favorite toy. Their training program has led them to associate that toy with the smell of drugs," according to ot ICTS.

The executive director of the United States Police Canine Association, Dan Slavik, told AP the trend of retiring dogs as marijuana is legalized is "everywhere."

"Once you train a behavior in a dog, that never goes away," he said.

When police dogs retire, it is common for them to get adopted and go live with a family. Often, retired service dogs are adopted by their handlers or other service members, Readers Digest reported.

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