PUEBLO – A critical case is before the Colorado Supreme Court that could change the rules when it comes to using pot-sniffing dogs to detect marijuana.
It’s a ruling that could affect local K9 units.
Some agencies like the Pueblo Police Department are already ahead of the game. It has one K9 trained to detect marijuana and another that’s never been exposed to it. The department said if the case holds up Pueblo PD won’t be affected, but other agencies might be.
“The whole country’s kind of watching this case.”
Detective Vince Petkosek is talking about the People of the State of Colorado v. Kevin Keith McKnight case. The situation began in 2015 when a marijuana trained K9 in Moffat County was alerted to a car. A search followed, a meth pipe was found, and McKnight was busted on drug charges.
Detective Petkosek said, “The argument came that because the dog was certified on marijuana that how do they know it wasn’t marijuana because it’s legal.”
McKnight was convicted, but it was eventually overturned by Colorado Court of Appeals judges who claimed
it was an illegal search because the dog could have been alerted to a legal amount of marijuana. Seeing this legal challenge move forward Pueblo Police brought in Sage last year.
“I can take Sage out, run the dog, she alerts. I don’t have to worry about…is she on marijuana? She’s never been exposed.”
Fellow K9 Widget has been exposed, but she’s still used for other outings.
“Going in schools, other facilities that marijuana’s illegal to be in.”
If the McKnight case holds up Petkosek said Widget won’t retire early since the department already has Sage.
In regards to other agencies who haven’t transitioned yet Petkosek said, “I see a lot of drug dogs being phased out.”
The Colorado Supreme Court heard oral arguments on this case on Wednesday. It’s likely a decision will not be made until next year. In the meantime, Detective Petkosek encourages agencies to do their research and reach out to other departments for help.