For the Washington State Patrol, a simple traffic stop can result in a big bust. Just last week troopers seized about $3,000 worth of meth, a pile of pills, blank checks and weapons from one man who was pulled over for driving with a cracked windshield.
“You never know,” said Sgt. Chris Caiola. “It's like a box of chocolates.”
But one of the old favorites in the Whitman's Sampler of illegal drugs is no more. Small amounts of marijuana are now legal in Washington, thanks to last year’s passage of Initiative 502.
Most police dogs, however, are still trained to sniff it out. That creates issues because if a dog detects a legal amount of marijuana and a gun used in a murder is found with it, a judge could say the gun isn’t admissible in court.
Enter, Kobe, a brand new State Patrol K9 who has been trained to sniff out all sorts of drugs, but not pot. KING 5 watched one traffic stop where the driver’s car reeked of weed, but Kobe just turned up his nose.
“We were in a house one time where we were literally standing on buds and leaves and he paid no attention,” said Kobe’s WSP partner, Darryl Tolen. “For traffic stops it means I don’t have to worry about some small time pot user. I can go after the narcotics traffickers.”
The State Patrol has three newly trained dogs that do not detect marijuana. They are all stationed in Western Washington, along the I-5 corridor.
However, while the new marijuana law is working to allow police time to focus on harder drugs, it is having some unintended consequences. Trooper Tolen believes major marijuana traffickers may simply leave a legal amount in the front seat to throw police off, and then have 10 pounds hidden in the trunk.
“There’s not much I can do,” he said. “Even if I run the dog, Kobe doesn't hit on the marijuana, so I'd never know. We very well might miss a lot of marijuana going down the road based on Initiative 502.”
Half of Tolen's arrests last year alone were for marijuana, but voters decided getting high on pot shouldn't be a high priority for police. Now, dogs like Kobe will help keep it that way.