Lompoc police dog retires after changes to California marijuana laws

Lompoc police dog being retired after...

LOMPOC, Calif - A Lompoc police dog is being retired after recent changes to California marijuana laws.

He's a perfectly healthy police K-9 but the Lompoc Police Department says they've got no other choice than to retire "Hank" after that recent California law went into effect.

Hank is retiring after seven years but police say he's still got a few more years left in him.

"With Prop 64 we've seen some changes in California law as it applies to marijuana.. one of the odors he's trained to alert on is marijuana," Lompoc Police Sgt. Kevin Martin said. 

Last year, Prop 64 passed, making the recreational use of marijuana legal.

"With Hank's training being in marijuana, we felt we couldn't use him the same way we could prior to the change in the law," Martin said. 

That's because Hank is trained to pick up on the odor of several drugs - including heroin, meth, cocaine and marijuana - which can be a liability for probable cause and search warrants.

"If the detectives need the dog to do a sniff of an item, a car, a garage to help with their probable cause to get a search warrant and they're looking for one of the other odors like methamphetamine, cocaine or heroin.. if your dog is only trained on that then it's good probable cause to assist with a search warrant," Martin said. 

But Hank also alerts detectives if he smells marijuana so this could mislead police into thinking they have probable cause.

Sgt. Martin says it's unfortunate because Hank does still have a lot of police life in him - and he recalled a time two years ago when Hank recovered a lot of money buried in the ground.

"They were able to seize I believe about $300,000 in cash.. Hank was a part of that search..and this specific drug dealer was burying the cash in the yards," Martin said. 

Martin says departments across California could end up having to retire dogs early because of Prop 64.

"They're all facing this issue.. and they're going to have to make a determination on how they're going to deal with it," Martin said. 

In appreciation for Hank they had a little pot luck for him Thursday afternoon.

"There were some doggy treats, had some bbq sandwiches for the staff and everyone brought something in," Martin said.  

Hank's retirement will save the department about $7,000 a year. He'll be living with his detective partner. 

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