“The dogs are done,” said State Attorney Jeff Siegmeister, who runs the prosecutors offices in the Third Judicial Circuit in seven rural North Florida counties. “If they’re pot-trained, I don’t know how we can ever re-certify them. Unless they’re trained in the future in a different way, in my area, every dog is going to be retired.”
But Florida Sheriff’s Association President Bob Gaultieri, who is also the Pinellas sheriff, said he doesn’t expect to retire dogs in his area. Still he, like the prosecutors across the state who answered, admitted dogs can’t distinguish between marijuana, hemp or harder drugs like heroin.
“The dog doesn’t put up one finger and say, ‘cocaine,’ two fingers and say, ‘heroin,’ and three fingers and say, ‘marijuana,’” Gaultieri said. “We had a very, very hard bright line up until this point that if a cop walks up to a car and you smell marijuana, well no matter what it was, any amount of THC is illegal, so if you smelled it, that gave you probable cause. … You had a hard bright line, period end of story. Now that bright line isn’t bright any more. Now that bright line is something less than that. Now if you walk up to a car and you smell marijuana, you have to conduct an investigation, and that along with other things may give you probable cause.”
To obtain medical marijuana in the state, patients must seek consultation and certification from licensed Florida marijuana doctors. They must also have a medical marijuana card and are only allowed to possess the specified amount of marijuana outlined by Florida law. Recreational marijuana is still illegal.
The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office said through a spokeswoman that the office would not be retiring drug-sniffing dogs. “They are still used every day!” wrote Officer Melissa Bujeda in an email. She said the office would still use dogs since odor can be one of several factors that lead to probable cause under a new policy written by Assistant State Attorney Andy Kantor.