Sniffer Dog Facts: Can Police Dogs Tell The Difference Between Hemp And Marijuana?

With a change in state law, sniffer dogs in Ohio might find themselves in need of a career change.

Since marijuana and hemp have identical scents, police dogs are incapable of providing “probable cause” allowing police to conduct drug searches. Both of these popular products are derived from the cannabis plant, meaning police dogs can’t tell the difference. With this being the case, the Columbus Division of Police is suspending the marijuana-detection training for new police dogs to avoid probable cause issues in the future.

After training a dog to detect a specific narcotic, the dog cannot receive training to cease the reaction to the odor. With 31 narcotic-detecting canines currently on the force, the Columbus Division of Police is evaluating how hemp legalization will impact the dogs’ careers.

Since the dogs are trained to hit on a plethora of drugs — for example, cocaine, heroin, and others — it’s impossible for officers to know whether the dog is hitting on legal hemp or a dangerous narcotic. 

Thus, new rules have been put in place. For instance, “a vehicle may not be searched solely because a K-9 trained to alert to marijuana alerted to the vehicle.” With the legalization of hemp changing the way Ohio and other states can utilize K-9 units, we’re seeing a shift in the requirements necessary to search a vehicle.

Sniffer Dog Facts
  • Even with sniffer dogs being incapable of telling the difference between cannabis and marijuana, they’re still rather impressive. Here’s what these dogs are capable of:
  • Dogs can detect target scents, alerting their handlers to the scents. These can include drugs, explosives, firearms, criminal evidence, cash, and other contraband.
  • Dogs can discern scents masked by other odors because they smell in layers.
  • A dog’s sense of smell is 10,000 more acute than a human’s.
  • Ancient Greeks, Persians, and Babylonians also used dogs for security, along with search and rescue.
  • Dogs are still the most effective bomb detectors.
  • Detection dogs can smell the difference between identical twins.

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