After her August 8 bust crossing into North Dakota from Canada, Melissa Etheridge pleads guilty to pot possession. Etheridge’s lawyer submitted the plea on behalf of the rock singer on Tuesday. As per the court’s orders, Etheridge will pay a fine of $750 and serve a one month period of unsupervised probation.
A drug-sniffing dog alerted border officials to what turned out to be joints, hash oil and cannabis topicals in Etheridge’s tour bus. But Etheridge’s celebrity, and her status as a California medical cannabis patient, probably helped her to avoid the maximum penalty in North Dakota.
Melissa Etheridge Pleads Guilty To Pot Possession In North Dakota
Weed busts are bad enough. But getting caught in a state with some of the harshest penalties for possession makes the situation even worse.
And the Dakotas have some of the toughest laws on the books. Possession of under an ounce is as lenient as it gets. If you’re convicted, you’re looking at a misdemeanor charge with a maximum of 30 days in jail and a $1,500 fine.
From there, however, penalties quickly escalate.
Over an ounce? A felony with a five-year sentence and a $10,000 fine. And selling any amount can land you up to 10 years in prison, with a three year mandatory minimum for second-time offenders.
The point is North Dakota isn’t somewhere you want police to bust you for weed.
And unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened to two-time Grammy Award-winning musician Melissa Etheridge.
As Etheridge’s tour bus crossed the border from Canada into the United States, a drug-sniffing dog alerted officers. With probable cause, thanks to the dog, the border agents then stopped and searched the bus.
According to Burke County Sheriff Jeremy Grohs, the search turned up joints dipped in hash oil and wax topicals.
After the discovery of the joints, Etheridge admitted they were hers. Police then arrested Etheridge for possession of marijuana while passing through an international border, according to court records.
Melissa Etheridge Pleads Guilty To Pot Possession For Treating Cancer Diagnosis
A resident of Hidden Hills, California, Etheridge, who is 56, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004.
While undergoing chemotherapy, Etheridge spoke out about her use of medical cannabis. In an NBC Dateline interview from 2005, Etheridge said cannabis improved her mood and increased her appetite.
Then, in a 2009 interview with Anderson Cooper, Etheridge said she still used weed to help with her acid reflux and to calm her in extremely stressful situations.
Medical marijuana use is, of course, legal in Etheridge’s home state of California. And furthermore, the songwriter had an active medical marijuana recommendation in the state at the time of her arrest in North Dakota.
A believer in the medical use of cannabis, in 2014 Etheridge partnered with Greenway Compassionate Relief, a Santa Cruz dispensary, to create CBD-infused red wine.
Indeed, Etheridge’s history with medical cannabis may have contributed to her lenient sentencing. Etheridge told the arresting officer she used the cannabis products found for medical uses.
North Dakota recently voted to legalize medical marijuana for a handful of severe conditions. The state expects dispensaries to open in 2018.