Low-level marijuana offenders eligible for pardons in North Dakota

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State officials have approved procedures permitting those with low-level marijuana possession convictions to seek unconditional pardons.

Republican Gov. Doug Burgum, who backed the plan, said, “By destigmatizing these minor, and in many cases, distant offenses, we can give individuals a second chance at a successful, healthy, productive life.”

Under the newly approved process, the Pardon Advisory Board will convene twice per year to review marijuana-related pardon applications. To be eligible for pardon, one must have been convicted of a crime involving the possession of either marijuana or marijuana-related paraphernalia, and have had no subsequent convictions for the following five years.

Applicants may apply for a pardon at no cost, and all requests must be received 90 days prior to the Board’s April and November meetings. Those requests approved by the Board will then be forwarded to the Governor, who takes final action on all pardon applications.

According to the state’s Attorney General, an estimated 175,000 North Dakotans may be eligible for relief.

Historically, North Dakota has been among the leading states in per capita marijuana possession arrests. In May, lawmakers enacted legislation reducing low-level marijuana possession penalties for first-time offenders from a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to 30 days in jail, to a criminal infraction – punishable by a fine but no possibility of jail time. The new penalties go into effect on August 1, 2019.

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