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Confusion over cannabis, Lake County K-9 forced into retirement

Posted at 8:05 PM, Sep 30, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-01 11:39:04-04

PAINESVILLE, Ohio  — The Painesville Police Department no longer has a K-9 Unit.

The department’s K-9 Cip has been forced to retire and his partner moved to regular patrol.

“He is still looking for his car, he comes out looking for it, where’s my car?” said Cip’s partner, officer Matthew Collins.

The K-9 patrol car is now permanently parked outside of the police department.

“It was really hard decision, gut wrenching really,” said Chief Dan Waterman.

Waterman said several unforeseen circumstances forced this decision. The first, the passage of Ohio Senate Bill 57 which removes hemp and hemp products from the definition of marijuana and prohibits it from being listed as a controlled substance.

Cip specializes in narcotics, the four-legged crime fighter can detect all four odors, marijuana, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine.

The problem is, Cip, can’t tell officers which drug he smells, he has one reaction to all four drugs which presents a legal challenge according to police. Cip can’t distinguish between legal and illegal strains of marijuana.

But, the passage of SB 57 was not the only problem. Budgetary shortfalls and expected overages by the end of the year added to the decision.

“Kind of a confluence of events happened. We learned the K-9 car needed to replaced and we were looking at just under $70,000,” said Waterman.

The cruiser needed to be specially equipped for the K-9.

The Painesville Police Department has a $4 million budget, but there was not a specific line item for the K-9 unit.

“It was generally funded through donations, so this is something the city would have had to find the money from somewhere,” said Waterman.

That didn’t happen, so for the first time in 16 years, Collins is patrolling alone. Cip will spend his retirement with Collins and his family.

The Painesville Police Department will rely on a couple neighboring K-9 Units, including the Fairport Harbor K-9 Unit.

Those dogs were not trained in detecting marijuana.

RELATED: Painesville Police Department disbanding K-9 unit due to budget restrictions, passage of hemp bill