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Marijuana legalization means career change for drug dog

June 8, 2013 at 4:09 PM

LAKEWOOD, Wash., June 8 (UPI) -- A police dog in a Washington state suburb is being transferred to a state prison -- his nose for marijuana obsolete now that the drug is legal in the state.

Handlers in the Lakewood Police Department near Tacoma say they were unable to retrain Phelan, a Labrador retriever, to ignore the scent of marijuana, The Tacoma News-Tribune reported. That means officers alerted to a car would not be able to tell a judge they had probable cause to search for illegal drugs.

Phelan is being sold to the Department of Corrections for $1. He has a future sniffing out marijuana in prison, where inmates are still barred from using pot.

Lakewood spent $6,000 to acquire a Belgian Malinois trained to ignore marijuana.

Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Lindquist said he has been in informal discussions with police departments in the Tacoma area on navigating the legalization of marijuana.

Dealing with trained drug dogs is part of the discussion.

"There's no bright line answer right now," he said. "Some agencies are erring on the side of caution."

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