Why new marijuana laws are causing K9's to be phased out

FAIRBANKS, Alaska - As marijuana becomes legal in more states, training for police dogs has started to evolve. And many have been retired as their services are phased out.

"We are going to go look for a toy that is all we are going to look for," said Robert Hall with Fairbanks Police Department.

Diesel is the Fairbanks Police Departments new K9 officer. He was brought on to take the place of retired K9 Stryker, who was on the force for 8 years. And while both Stryker and Diesel share the job in common, there is one interesting difference.

"Diesel just got trained this last summer, and he is only trained for methamphetamine, cocaine, and heroin," he said.

Unlike his predecessor, Diesel does not alert to the presence of marijuana. Since the legalization of marijuana at the state level, there has been no need for a K9 to detect the scent. But have no fear, Stryker wasn't just suddenly voted off the island.

"He was up there in age any way so we semi-retired him off of narcotics detection so he finished out his career as a patrol dog only," he said.

Officer Hall also explained how Diesel was trained, starting with a toy that he thinks is hidden.

"We have associated the odor of narcotics with playtime. So as he is looking for this odor, he is in fact looking for a toy to be rewarded," he said.

FPD isn't the only agency to make this decision, drug detecting K9's in many places have been retired after the legalization of marijuana in their state. The good news is K9 handlers are able to adopt their retired partners giving them the opportunity to enjoy retirement to the fullest.