GRAND FORKS — The legalization of marijuana, or at least the attempt to do so, has gained steam.
But recreational use still is illegal in most states and federally, meaning those who are caught with marijuana without a prescription can face criminal charges.
In North Dakota, more than 50 percent of the drug arrests have involved marijuana for several years, according to the Attorney General’s Office. Arrests have been on the rise in the state, and it appears large busts are becoming more common.
A large concern is people may not realize recreational use of marijuana isn’t legal in North Dakota, Grand Forks Police Deputy Chief Jim Remer said. The U.S. is made up of what he called a “patchwork” of marijuana laws — some completely outlaw marijuana use, many have legalized medical marijuana and a handful allow recreational use.
“We don’t have those laws in place that make it legal in other states,” he said of recreational use. “I think at times people can get very frustrated over that because they maybe don’t understand that or think, ‘It’s legal there. It should be something that is OK here.’ That’s just not the case.”
A group of North Dakotans hope to change that as they gather signatures to put a legalization measure on the November election ballot. The measure would fully legalize marijuana in North Dakota and would require the state to expunge any marijuana convictions from anyone’s record who has been convicted in the state.
Proponents argue North Dakota is ready for recreational use, and decriminalizing it would free up law enforcement officers to focus resources on other criminal activity, said Josh Dryer, campaign manager for the group behind the measure, Legalize ND.