Changes in Missouri recreational marijuana laws causing some police K-9s to retire early

Published: Dec. 22, 2022 at 11:56 PM CST
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KANSAS CITY, MO -- The legalization of recreational marijuana in Missouri is causing many drug-sniffing police dogs to retire early or shift to other duties. It is now legal to possess 3 ounces or less of marijuana in Missouri.

The Kansas City Missouri Police Department is retiring three canines that were originally trained to detect the scent of marijuana and other illegal drugs.

“I’ve been working with Mike for over three years. He’s a five-and-a-half-year-old Belgian Malinois,” KCPD Police Officer, K-9 Handler Yale Acton said. “He is a very successful dog in the three years I got to work with him.”

KCPD K9 Mike recently retired. His handler, Officer Acton, says typically police canines are retired when they are 8-10 years old. “So that they can spend the last few years of their life just being a dog and enjoying it,” Acton said. “Mike being five-and-a-half-years old, he’s still full of spit and vinegar and high drive. Very energetic.”

The KCPD Canine Section and the Clay County Sheriff’s Office began preparing for a change in Missouri marijuana laws. “The good news is they retire with their handler. They retire with the person they’ve worked with the whole time,” Clay County Sheriff Public Relations Manager Sarah Boyd said. “They just get to hang out and be a pet.”

Seven-year-old K-9 Blaze was Clay County’s last patrol dog that was trained to detect marijuana. “Based on the change in the law, we had anticipated that,” Boyd said. The last two years we have not been training our canines on the scent of marijuana. You can always add a scent in later for a dog to train on. You can never take one away.”

Several law enforcement agencies around the state of Missouri are in the process of training and purchasing new dogs to detect illegal drugs other than marijuana including heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamines. Dogs originally trained to detect illegal drugs including marijuana alert in the same way for all types of drugs that they are trained to detect.

The KCPD Canine section currently has 12 canines. “Six of them are explosive and patrol dogs and then six of them are narcotics and patrol dogs with dual purpose,” Acton said. “Right now, we only have three narcotic dogs that are still able to function and work in the street as detection dogs.”

Members of a recently formed non-profit organization, KCPD K9 Friends, are raising donations by selling K9 calendars highlighting the KCPD’s Canine Section for $20 each. The organization aims to help fund equipment and training not available in the budget, financial assistance toward medical expenses of retired K-9s and assistance for the purchase of new K-9s.

“We are using that to raise funds first of all for the retired dogs. Once the dog is retired the officer and handler is responsible for all the cost of their vet care, their food, everything, and we want to try to be able to lessen some of that expense for them,” KCPD K9 Friends President Jackie Cudahy said.