Drug sniffing K9 retirements sped up due to marijuana legalization

K9 Jango and K9 Cobra aren't just skilled, highly trained animals. Their noses are a vital component of the work the Olmsted County Sheriff's Office does every day.

For nearly a decade, these K9 officers have helped their law enforcement partners by sniffing out illegal drugs, mainly during traffic stops. But now, marijuana legalization is speeding up their retirement.

"We can't un-train them from smelling marijuana," Captain Ryan Mangan, who leads the K9 Unit at Olmsted County Sheriff's Office.

The German Shepard and Belgian Malinois are the only two K9s left in the department with the ability to detect pot, in addition to other drugs like cocaine and ectasy. Legalization means they can't sniff for drugs anymore and will instead be on patrol duty for the rest of their careers.

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"They're not doing narcotics searches. We can't train the dog to differentiate between marijuana and meth, for example," said Mangan. 

Olmsted County started phasing out teaching their dogs to detect weed in 2019, anticipating it would someday be legal in Minnesota. 

K9 Jango and K9 Cobra were already nearing the end of their working careers, so come Aug. 1, easing them into retirement was the logical next step. 

"To make things easier as far as the transition to this new world of marijuana legalization... It helps us bring a new dog in that's not trained in marijuana to be used to its fullest capacity," said Mangan. 

The department hopes to have a new K9 officer on the force by this fall and plans to add another next spring. 

There's no set date as to when K9 Jango and K9 Cobra will officially retire. When they do, they'll continue to live out their days with their handlers, not as working partners anymore, but they'll remain cherished companions.