North Dakotans seeking pot pardons slow to a “dwindle’

December 9, 2021 GMT

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Only a few of the tens of thousands of people who may be eligible have taken advantage of a policy that lets those with low-level marijuana convictions in North Dakota petition have their records wiped clean if they avoid unlawful behavior for five years.

Records show only 51 of the 70 people who applied have been granted pardons in the two years the policy has been in place. Another three people, who were recommended for pardons last month by an advisory board, are awaiting approval by the governor.

Republican Gov. Doug Burgum and Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem both support the change, which brings North Dakota in line with some other states and cities that have been trying to fix problems that such past convictions have caused for people trying to find jobs and housing.


Stenehjem estimated as many as 175,000 marijuana convictions over several decades could be eligible for pardons under the policy.

Burgum has said the policy change could help address North Dakota’s workforce shortage and grow its economy. He said removing the stigma for what in many cases are minor cases from years ago gives former offenders a second chance and allows them to contribute to their communities.

North Dakota already had allowed people to apply for pardons to remove marijuana-related offenses from their records, but the process was burdensome. While the new policy doesn’t go as far as other states that automatically dismiss or pardon convictions, it does involve an application process.

People applying for pardons must complete a 1½-page form that law enforcement reviews before placing a case on the pardon board’s agenda. It costs nothing to apply.

Burgum’s spokesman said the number of applicants seeking to have their pot convictions erased has “slowed to a dwindle.” Only eight applications were received last month in the fourth round of the summary pardons.

Five of the eight were returned because the applications were incomplete.