Paris Police Departments’ K9 Cupa and his handler, Officer Jeff Padier, are now one of three K9 teams in the nation that hold accreditation to identify the differences between hemp and marijuana products.
“Cupa and I joined the K9 teams from Lewisville in December to become accredited in identifying the differences of hemp and marihuana,” said Padier.
In June 2019, Gov. Greg Abbott signed House Bill 1325 into law legalizing hemp and hemp-derived products like CBD oil, and the legal definition of marijuana changed from cannabis to cannabis that contains more than 0.3 percent of tetrahydrocannabinol,(or THC) the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.
Cannabis below the level of .3 percent is now known as legal hemp. Thus begins the adjustment period for law enforcement to be aware of the differences between legalized hemp and illegal marijuana.
“We wanted to be proactive,” said Padier. “That’s why with the support of the Paris Police Department, myself and two K9 units from Lewisville sought out an accreditation course to ensure that our dogs were able to correctly and efficiently identify the differences when called to work.”
Padier went on to explain that he and Cupa were part of the inaugural class, and in doing so, the training was very rigorous to ensure that defining the two substances was a clear and concise alert on Cupa’s end.
“Dogs are like humans; no two are the same,” he said. “So when you are relying on their ability to identifying and alert through their nose, every dog will have a different threshold to sensitivity. A sensitivity that is the difference of positively identifying the THC level difference between hemp and marijuana.”
Bubba Howell from Southern State K9 training in Mississippi put together the course from scratch. Padier alongside his Lewisville K9 counterparts sought to reach out to Howell to see if there was a course that was already available. In this case, there wasn’t, and so Howell took on the task of creating a new program.
“Bubba traveled down to Texas to hold the course for us,” Padier explained. “It was very comprehensive, and I think that is how it needs to be run because we need our K9’s to be confident and correct each time to make sure we do not make mistakes.”
Mistakes are something that will always come with any job, but specifically, with the new law, errors can cause more than just a headache for the possible suspect and law enforcement.
Just recently, an out of state driver was pulled up in Amarillo with an alleged cargo load of 3.350 pounds of suspected marijuana. Through a statement from the lawyer of the accused, it said, “Our client was indicted in the Northern District of Texas, Amarillo division on a violation of 21 USC. §§ 841(a)(1), 841(b)(1)(A)(vii) – POSSESSION WITH INTENT TO DISTRIBUTE 1000 KILOGRAMS OR MORE OF MARIHUANA following this stop. We maintained from the word go that all he had was hemp, and this morning the US Government moved to dismiss the charges against our client.”
Unfortunately for the person suspected of distributing marijuana, they spent a month behind bars before the product was positively identified as legal hemp.
This is the perfect example of the tribulations law enforcement is expected to see after the introduction of the new laws. But, should they have a K9 that can positively identify the different THC levels to alert to marijuana-it then has the probability of lessening the likelihood of a department facing a civil violation suit.
“Regardless of what people may think of law enforcement, the last thing we want is for anyone to be charged with a crime they didn’t commit. When this law regulating hemp came to be, we all were very concerned about the ability to distinguish hemp from THC bearing marijuana. This training that Officer Padier and Cupa have successfully completed will help us to avoid mistakes in identifying these substances,” said Paris Police Chief Bob Hundley.
“We want the people of Paris to know and trust that Cupa can do his job. We are proud to have had him trained in this area to ensure he provides the utmost quality for the citizens of Paris while doing his job on the streets,” Padier added.