Marijuana legalization hasn’t changed Carson City K-9’s operation |

Marijuana legalization hasn’t changed Carson City K-9’s operation

Carson City Sheriff's Office K9 deputy Jimmy Surratt and his partner, Tico
Taylor Pettaway/Nevada Appeal |

Though new laws have made marijuana legal in Nevada, nothing has changed for how the Carson City Sheriff’s K9s do their jobs.

So far, with the legalization, the K9 officers haven’t run into any problems while utilizing the drug dogs. The K9 officers said this law hasn’t made their jobs any harder.

“The new legalization doesn’t change for us how we conduct a stop,” said K9 Sgt. Craig Lowe. “We are going to proceed as always with the totality of the dogs… the dogs‘ use goes past the marijuana.”

Lowe said an indication of marijuana isn’t the only probable cause they look for in a K9 deployment: is there paraphernalia in plain sight? Are there other drugs in sight? Is the driver impaired? Are they a subject in a drug investigation? Is the subject on Parole and Probation or Alternative Sentencing? Lowe said there are other investigations, such as a DUI investigation, that may merit a K9 deployment, even if there’s the legal amount of marijuana on scene.

“It will all be determined on an individual case basis,” said K9 deputy Jimmy Surratt. “No case is exact and may warrant investigation still because marijuana is still illegal in some regulations, including in schools, being high when you are driving and some workplaces don’t allow it.

“There are a bunch of different factors but we can still get probable cause based on suspicion. Just saying you have marijuana doesn’t negate the police’s job in considering other aspects.”

Lowe said these new regulations won’t change what the department has been doing for years.

“This is all stuff we have been doing for a long time, we don’t build probable cause off of just what we smell or are told,” Lowe said. “We build probable cause on all types of things and we are building it the entire time (prior to an investigation).”

Surratt said another component is the amount of marijuana on the person; anything over one ounce is still illegal and is an arrestable offense. He said they’ll treat the investigation like any other; if they find laws broken, the subject could be arrested, if there are no laws broken, the subject is free to go.

The unit will also still be using the dogs heavily to try to detect drugs within the schools. Lowe said they’ve had teachers at the middle schools and high schools ask them to bring the dogs to check the students before field trips and other class functions.

“The schools still want to know if there are drugs on campus so the practicality of the dogs being imprinted with marijuana is still there,” Lowe said. “The dogs are an invaluable tool to keep the schools drug-free.”

To donate to the K9 unit, in order to help them continue to train and provide equipment, visit the Carson City Sheriff’s Office. The unit is also selling K9 T-shirts for $20, available at the Sheriff’s Office.