North Dakotans Share How Life would be Different without a Small Marijuana Possession Record.
In continuing coverage: Starting in August, North Dakotans will see smaller penalties for possessing less than a half-ounce of marijuana.
A couple of weeks ago, we broke down House Bill 1050, which brings your first two offenses down from a B Misdemeanor, to an infraction.
Today, we sat down with a couple of North Dakotans who say, things could be different for them if this bill was passed years ago.
To tell Dustin Peyer’s story, we have to go back to when he was 18.
The Driscoll resident shares, “It was the first summer after graduation, not my first time with marijuana, but my first time getting caught. Basically you get put in a room with two very seasoned DEA Agents and they tell you everything that you need to hear to think that your life is over.”
He was charged again in 2006, and yes, both are still on his record.
Peyer adds, “I did get charged with a felony for delivery of 1/3 of one gram of marijuana for $10.”
It was eventually dropped down to a misdemeanor for possession. After that, Peyer left the state to begin his career as a wildlife firefighter.
He explains, “Not necessarily because I felt what I was doing was wrong, but I was tired of being placed in jail and looked at as a criminal. So when I got to Oregon, way different outlook on Cannabis.”
After some trouble with the law, Jenna Vanhorn also left North Dakota for some time.
The Steele resident shares, “I had a hard time in my life at one point. I struggled really, really bad with some really heavy drugs.”
She ran a medical dispensary where she found the record didn’t matter to her, marijuana was her saving grace.
Vanhorn explains, “People say the gateway drug is marijuana, but I swear it’s alcohol, it is. It was the first thing that brought me into that space, that dangerous space. And I really believe it was marijuana that pulled me out.”
We asked Peyer: If this had passed back when you were 18, would things be different for you?
He shared, “Yeah, absolutely. You get a job that still is maybe a good job, like working in a restaurant or something like that, but then you are hanging out with more people with records. You know, it just kind of spirals. You know, you think about ‘Well, I could get an engineering degree, or I could get this degree’. But, why would I risk four years of college or more, all to crushing debt, only to be told, ‘You’re a felon’?
Peyer calls House Bill 1050 a double-edged sword because the law is more lenient, but your record remains.
Vanhorn is disappointed that the fine can be as high as a $1,000. She says for many, already in a tough place, that could break the bank.