Troopers with the Michigan State Police K-9 Unit say the agency’s policy for searching vehicles is changing to accommodate the state’s new recreational marijuana law.
On Tuesday, Battle Creek Police said they and law enforcement agencies throughout the state are reevaluating how they utilize and train police K-9s.
Trooper Jereme Miller says because of the law, he and other K-9 handlers will likely use dogs less when searching vehicles for drugs.
Miller says of the 45 narcotic dogs on the state police force, eight are not trained to detect marijuana. His K-9, Dakota, is trained to detect marijuana, which is now legal to be consumed and possessed in Michigan.
He said if an occupant of a vehicle tells him during a stop they have marijuana in their car, he now cannot use Dakota to sniff around. Miller reluctantly admitted that it creates a difficult scenario where if someone lies and says they have marijuana in their car, he won’t be able to send Dakota in to search for other drugs.
Miller said he would instead have to see if one of the state’s eight non-marijuana detecting narcotic K-9’s is close enough to join the call and check the car, or see if a local agency has a dog trained the same way nearby. That could lead to delays.
“There’s other ways around it, again we don’t just have to always use a dog,” he said. “Sometimes it takes one or two officers or troopers to be on scene and kind of work through those and problem solve those stops and those complaints that we’re on.”
He said troopers can use other tactics to establish probable cause to conduct a search, things like picking up on the occupants behavior, or paying attention to see if their story changes during the stop.
Miller said MSP still hasn’t felt the full impact of the new law and he believes the next six months or so will be a huge learning period.
He feels the biggest adjustment for troopers will be simply getting over the fact that a drug they’ve spent their whole careers treating as illegal is now fine in most circumstances.