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Legalized Marijuana Forcing Old Dogs To Learn New Tricks

A customer rolls a joint made of half marijuana and half tobacco in Olympia, Wash., on December 9, 2012.

Drug-sniffing dogs, those cute bellwethers of illegal activity, are dropping Marijuana from their repertoire in Washington state.

A 2012 ballot initiative legalized the use of marijuana in the state (although federal law still prohibits its use). Since then authorities have been working to implement the law. Part of that process is, apparently, to employ canines who don't react to the smell of marijuana. The AP explains why:

The prosecuting attorneys' association also told police that an "alert" from a drug-sniffing dog that had been trained to find marijuana is no longer enough evidence for a search warrant. Police will need other evidence, at least until the old dogs retire.

In an extensive story on the changes facing law enforcement agencies and their dogs, Seattle's KOMO News reports that not every agency is responding the same way:

Sgt. Sean Whitcomb said the Seattle Police Department is already taking steps to desensitize its dogs to marijuana through rewards and constant training.

"Got to keep those sniffers in shape," Whitcomb said.

But, not all law-enforcement agencies are on board with the changes.

Tacoma Police Department spokesperson Loretta Cool said the department will not be changing any of its procedures for training or using narcotics dogs as the possession of marijuana is still illegal under federal law.

KOMO has this full story, or you can watch their video (complete with cute dogs):

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit www.npr.org.

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