Travelers who want to enjoy a safe and smooth experience should never lose track of the golden rules. Pack the right clothes for the climate you’re traveling to, double check that you’ve got your passport and money with you, write down a few emergency contacts, and… don’t travel with illicit substances or fail to declare the stuff the customs folks want to know about.
You, of course, are sensible about all of those things. You still want to know, though — can (drug sniffer) dogs smell weed cartridges?
What Can All Dogs Smell?
A lot. Research estimates that our canine best friends (or, in this case, perhaps worst enemies) have a powerful sense of smell that’s between 10,000 and 100,000 times stronger than a human’s. That’s both because dogs possess many more scent receptors, and because they have special structures within their noses that amplify even faint smells.
It’s no wonder that dogs have been used to sniff out things of interest to law enforcement for ages. Among the things that dogs can easily smell, even if they’re concealed, are:
- A wide variety of illegal drugs as well as legal controlled substances, such as tobacco
- Missing people
- Bed bugs
- USB drives
- Believe it or not, some dogs with specialized training can even detect cancer in people
The canine units found in law enforcement agencies receive complex training, and the behavior and personality of each sniffer dog in training is carefully evaluated every step of the way. Once a sniffer dog graduates, that dog is a pro at their job.
They’ll sit down (or whatever other signal they might be trained to offer) only when they detect the substance they were trained to search for. Drug dogs are disciplined, and nobody will be able to fool their human handlers by trying to make it seem like the dog was only excited about the ham sandwich in their suitcase.
Drug dogs aren’t just found at airports anymore, either. Traffic stops and large public events can attract their fair share of trained canines, too. This means that you’re probably not only wondering whether drug dogs can smell weed cartridges out of intellectual curiosity. The answer to the question probably has practical value to you, as well.
Can Airport Drug Dogs Smell Weed Cartridges?
Yes, sniffer dogs can smell weed cartridges and alert their handlers to the presence of these cartridges, IF they have been trained to look for weed. The TSA has gone on the record multiple time saying they are concerned with safety, meaning they look and use dogs to detect contraband and potentially dangerous materials. They are apparently, NOT looking for cannabis (however if they find it they say they’ll alert local airport police).
Even if you get stopped for a random bag check, most middle aged TSA probably won’t even recognize what a vape cartridge is, let alone find it if you “lose” it among tons of other similarly shaped things like a make-up bag, or in a backpack pouch with mini-flashlights and metal bodied pens.
Technically speaking though sniffer dogs can detect the THC in cannabis, alongside a few specific terpenes (both of which are abundant in dab pens) and they’ll be able to do so even if you conceal weed cartridges in something else with a strong smell, like your full lunch box.
Drug dogs can even sniff out (perfectly legal, in most places) CBD oil and related cannabis products, if they have been trained for that task.
TL;DR: As long as marijuana is legal where you are (traveling), and you have the appropriate medical cannabis prescription where relevant, that fact shouldn’t scare you.
What’s more, if you encounter sniffer dogs somewhere where cannabis is perfectly legal, those dogs are more likely to be on the lookout for substances like MDMA or meth than for weed.
Additionally, even if you are in a non-legal jurisdiction the TSA isn’t actively looking for weed. We know people that have flown to half the lower continental United States and they always bring their carts with them and have never had a problem, including walking through dog sniffing boxes.
It would seem, in real-world practice, the TSA isn’t lying when they say they’re not looking for drugs, especially not your pithy little vape pen.
Can TSA Dogs Smell Weed Cartridges?
Even untrained canines — including your own pooch — can smell weed cartridges without any problems. While drug dogs are routinely rewarded for locating the substance they’re looking for, and thus get excited when they find it, your own pet or a random dog you encounter outside probably won’t care too much about your weed.
There’s no research to indicate whether dogs like or dislike the smell of cannabis, but it’s most likely that the odor will just blend into a wider mosaic of overwhelming human-related smells. In other words, your weed cartridges are unlikely to bother your pet dog.
It should go without saying but we’ll cover our legal asses by typing this out: this is not legal advise and we do not condone breaking any local or federal laws.
That said, after hours of perusing news headlines, TSA handler interviews, drug dog handler interviews, and numerous online stoner forums we’ve yet to find a documented instance of someone getting busted for bring a vape pen cart through the airport.
Take that for what it’s worth and bon chance!