North Dakota: Gov. Burgum Issues Additional Pardons for Low-Level Marijuana Offenses

On November 9, Republican Governor Doug Burgum of North Dakota approved an additional 24 pardons which were recommended by the state’s Pardon Advisory Board.

According to the Bismarck Tribune, a “pardon essentially removes guilt for an offense.”

Gov. Burgum approved the first round of 16 pardons in January 2020. As Governor, about half of the 79 total pardons approved by Burgum were for minor marijuana offenses.

State officials approved procedures in July 2019 permitting those with low-level marijuana possession convictions to seek unconditional pardons. As estimated by the state’s Attorney General, as many as 175,000 North Dakotans may be eligible for relief under this policy.

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 are then forwarded to the Governor, who takes final action on all pardon applications.

Historically, North Dakota has been among the leading states in per capita marijuana possession arrests. In 2019, 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.