Marijuana activists and US attorney react to reclassification

FARGO, N.D. (KVRR) – The Drug Enforcement Administration has proposed reclassifying marijuana as a less dangerous drug because of its medical uses and lower potential for abuse.

The proposal would move marijuana from a Schedule I controlled substance to a Schedule III controlled substance, below drugs like fentanyl and methamphetamine.

For Steve Bakken, chairman of New Economic Frontier, who is supporting a ballot initiative to legalize recreational marijuana in North Dakota, this proposal is a vindication.

“Well, I think it just reinforces the fact that we are on the right path and that the time is right to actually go down that path in North Dakota.”

Bakken believes legalization efforts and proposals like this can help law enforcement focus their resources on stopping the trafficking of more dangerous drugs.

“In law enforcement, our resources are very stretched, and the bigger problem, the bigger concern is the opioids, fentanyl and the other illegal drugs that are coming into North Dakota.”

The change is not expected to have a major impact on the U.S. Attorney's Office in North Dakota, according to U.S. Attorney Mac Schneider.

Schneider said his office is not prosecuting marijuana possession charges, in part because of pardons by President Joe Biden in 2022.

“So this is different than, you know, kind of widespread marijuana trafficking. But of course we will not prosecute the cases in which a pardon has been issued. That would be forbidden by law.”

Schneider says they are focusing their law enforcement resources on other things, primarily stopping the trafficking of fentanyl and methamphetamine.

“We will still have to make the difficult decisions about how best to use the prosecutor's limited resources, for now, I imagine, into the medium future. The focus will be on the widespread distribution of fentanyl and methamphetamine.”

Schneider said his office is focused on fighting organized crime, not drug users themselves.

“Our priority is to prosecute organized criminal groups that target North Dakota for the distribution of dangerous drugs.”

This proposal will have less impact in Minnesota, where recreational marijuana is already legal.

Anna Harden

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