Can Drug-Sniffing Dogs Detect Edibles?

Will drugs pick up on your cannabis edibles, or no?
Will drugs pick up on your cannabis edibles, or no? /

Now that marijuana legalization has gone so widespread, getting pot is just a car ride away for most people in the U.S., even those living in prohibition states. 

And by gawd, they are making the drive, too, breaking all sorts of laws by crossing imaginary state lines with real weed. 

The thing is: Law enforcement is privy to this outlaw behavior, and they are hot on the toker's trail, hellbent on putting amateur pot smugglers behind bars. Police are scouring the interstates right now just trying to catch you or someone you love transporting tokes into jurisdictions where the herb remains a no-no.  

Now, it's relatively easy to avoid getting caught with pot in most cases. All a marijuana-toting motorist needs to do is employ a little common sense, obey the traffic laws, and don't give any of those bored good-old-boys a reason to pick them out of the crowd. 

So, for the love of everything holy, take those Bob Marley stickers off your car immediately. They are cop magnets.  

We live in America, however, so let's be honest: not everyone uses their brain all of the time (editor’s note: stupidity is an international condition). People in these parts tend to get downright dumb on the roadways even though they might be traveling with an illicit substance that could get them jammed up in the criminal justice system.

Rather than go on the offensive and break only one law at a time as a means for escaping the wrath of a roadside shakedown, many pot consumers would rather utilize myth-riddled methods to try and evade arrest if and when a cop stops them and unleashes the drug-seeking hounds.

"All you have to do is cover your weed with loads of cayenne pepper," a man named Sean told The Bluntness. "It'll also throw the dogs off if you bury it in coffee grounds or dryer sheets," he added.

Um, no, this will not work.

Behold the Power of  the Canine Nose

Listen, dogs have powerful sniffers -- around 100,000 times stronger than humans. Let that sink in for a minute. Their noses aren't just mighty; they're actually quite sophisticated. Put a pot of chili in front of the average human, and they're just going to smell chili. But canines go deeper. They can smell layers, so dogs will register the chili ingredients individually. They'll know there's meat, beans, peppers and onions in there. They'll even be able to sniff out any of your secret spices.

When I was younger, my family had this German Spitz named Gee. This dog hated peas with an almighty passion. Hated them more than baths, even more than visits to the vet. This pooch, however, was a true connoisseur of middle-class cuisine, always showing up tableside to eat our scraps. 

But anytime one of those green peas was part of the deal, he'd turn up his nose like the true, fluffy white food snob that he was. My dad thought it was funny that a dog had such discriminating taste, so he always tried to trick him into eating peas. It became a game. 

Every night we had peas for dinner, rest assured the old man was going to try to get the dog to eat some. One night, after failing to fool the dog so many times before, dad buried a single pea in the middle of Gee's Alpo, thinking there was no way in hell he could scarf it all down and not eat the pea too. But upon inspecting the bowl later that night, lo and behold, the pea was still there, mocking my father. Gee had won again. But how? Because he could smell it in there the whole time.

This is the reason Sean's cayenne pepper and coffee grounds methods are useless when it comes to hoodwinking a hound. Sure, they'll smell the Folgers or whatever else you use to try and disguise any and all pot odors, but they will also sense the weed. Forget about masking pot odor to evade a drug-sniffing dog. It's impossible. Research shows that dogs can smell targets in a measurement of part per trillion (ppt). That's basically a single drop of a liquid substance within twenty Olympic-sized swimming pools. Stoners are no match for the mightiness of the mutt.

Can Drug-Sniffing Dogs Smell Edibles?

Still, the odor of cannabis edibles and concentrates is different than flower. So, will a K9 alert on these products the same way they do bud? Glenn Hayter, Director of Training & Operations with Global Training Academy, Inc, told The Bluntness that "it is possible." 

Hayter trains dogs to detect everything from bombs to drugs. He understands the capabilities of a canine and knows they are impressive, to say the least. Yet, Hayter admits that a pot-sniffing pup's ability to alert on cannabis products really just depends. 

"There's many variables that can come into play to the accuracy of detection such as the environment, weather, packaging, location of the packaging, etc.," he explained. "But the simple truth is they are more than capable of detecting these trace amounts."

Unfortunately, "it's possible" is as good as we get. Some dog trainers we spoke with (but didn't want to go on record for fear of alienating police buddies) say a drug dog requires extra training to hit on cannabis edibles and concentrates (because they have a unique smell). In contrast, others assured us that the dog's snout was powerful enough to alert on these products regardless of the difference.

We reached out to Paul Armentano, Deputy Director of the national cannabis advocacy group NORML in hopes of gaining additional insight. Armentano is infamous for having his finger on the pulse of all the research surrounding marijuana and law enforcement. But not even he has a grip on this one.

"I am not aware of any controlled studies assessing the ability, or lack thereof, of drug detection dogs to identify cannabis products in non-flower formulations," Armentano told The Bluntness.

While the primary purpose of this article was to show people traveling between legal and illegal territory the safest products to carry in route, I am left with an uneasy feeling about making any concrete recommendations. 

It does appear a motorist stands the best chance of not getting busted by traveling exclusively with edibles and concentrates. Dogs "might" be able to smell these items hidden in the trunk, but a cop definitely can't. 

Therefore, not even the most redneck hillbilly trooper should have a reason to instigate a search. But conditions are wild out there in some areas. You never know when a cop will fabricate reasonable suspicion, rip out the seats and call out the dogs. 

If this happens, and there is any kind of cannabis in the vehicle, it could be found. Just understand the risks and do your best to diminish them during your travels.

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