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At Arechigo & Stokka, we recognize that understanding North Dakota marijuana laws isn’t always easy. 

Clients often ask us, is marijuana legal in North Dakota? Unfortunately, questions like this usually come to us after a client is charged with a crime. Taking the proactive step and learning about our state’s cannabis laws can help you avoid future legal problems.
But if you’ve already been charged or are under investigation for a crime, we can help you identify the best possible legal strategy for your situation.

Please contact our office to arrange a consultation.

Is Marijuana Legal in North Dakota? 

As of 2023, yes, medical marijuana is legal in North Dakota for qualifying patients under specific regulations. However, recreational marijuana remains illegal. However, the legislature revised North Dakota’s marijuana laws in 2019, which decriminalized the possession of small amounts of cannabis. Decriminalization does not make it legal.
Someone caught with marijuana can still face charges and pay a fine, but the new law prevents people from being sent to jail for possessing small amounts.

Is Medical Marijuana Legal in North Dakota? 

In 2016, North Dakota voters approved the legalization of medical marijuana by passing Measure 5. This initiative allows patients with qualifying medical conditions to use marijuana. 

Following this Measure, the state formed a regulated medical marijuana program. It manages patient registration, licensed dispensaries, and caregivers. Patients must adhere to the guidelines set by the state to qualify under the law. 

As of 2023, about 9,700 people participate in this program. To qualify for a North Dakota medical marijuana card, you must: 

  • Receive a medical marijuana certificate from a medical doctor, and 
  • Have one of the approved debilitating conditions.

Once approved, you can possess either 3 oz. or 7.5 oz. of marijuana at one time, depending on your condition. 

Criminal Charges Related to Marijuana Possession

North Dakota, like many states, has different criminal charges based on how much marijuana someone has and what they intend to do with it. 


The charges for possessing marijuana depend on the amount the defendant has in their possession. The possession charges under North Dakota law are: 

  • Below .5 ounces—a criminal infraction with a maximum fine of $1,000; 
  • Between .5 ounces to 500 grams—a class B misdemeanor with a maximum fine of $1,500 and up to 30 days in jail; and
  • Over 500 grams—a class A misdemeanor with a maximum fine of $3,000 and up to 360 days in jail. 

Although having under .5 ounces of marijuana won’t result in jail time, remember you cannot legally consume it. Using marijuana, in any amount, is a misdemeanor. This charge can lead to 30 days in jail and a maximum fine of $1,500. 


Selling any amount of marijuana is a felony in North Dakota. This charge comes with up to five years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000. Selling marijuana within 1,000 feet of a school is also a felony. It can result in up to 10 years in prison and a maximum fine of $20,000.

Marijuana Paraphernalia

North Dakota has outlawed owning or selling items that help someone grow or use marijuana. Paraphernalia includes everything from planters to water pipes. 

The charges associated with owning or selling paraphernalia include:

  • Possession to ingest or inhale—a criminal infraction with a maximum fine of $1,000; 
  • Possession to cultivate, plant, compound, or process—a class A misdemeanor with a maximum fine of $3,000 and up to 360 days in jail;
  • Manufacture, delivery, or advertisement—a class A misdemeanor with a maximum fine of $3,000 and up to 360 days in jail; and
  • Selling or giving paraphernalia to a minor—a felony with a maximum fine of $10,000 and up to five years in prison. 

Many stores sell marijuana paraphernalia over the counter, but this does not make it legal. You can still be guilty of owning paraphernalia even if you bought it from a legal smoke shop.

What Happens If the Police Arrest You for Marijuana?

After arriving at the police station, you’ll go through booking. The police will take your personal details and keep your belongings. After this, you will need to take a mugshot and undergo fingerprinting. 

At this point, the police might attempt to question you. Do not speak with the police. You have no obligation to have this conversation. The officers do this to get you to confess to committing the crime. The prosecutor will use this evidence against you. If the police attempt to question you, ask for a Fargo drug crimes attorney

You’ll likely be placed in a holding cell for some time. It can last a few hours until the police formalize the charges against you. Once everything is done, you may qualify for bail. Bail is a temporary release until your court date. If you don’t receive bail, the police might transfer you to county court.

Why Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney?

Marijuana use is becoming more common, but that doesn’t mean the law is on your side. You can go to prison for many years for possessing marijuana in North Dakota. Hiring a criminal defense attorney will help you fight against these charges. With your lawyer’s help, you might be able to avoid jail time or get the charges dismissed altogether.

A defense attorney can be by your side shortly after you arrive at the jail. They will stop the police from interviewing you and can help you coordinate bail. Your attorney will also assess the evidence against you and look for ways to overcome it.
For example, police sometimes make errors during the arrest that make the evidence excludable. If so, it’s likely the state will have to drop its charges.

Most important of all, criminal defense lawyers fight for you. They will negotiate with prosecutors to help you avoid serious charges. If your case goes to trial, they will advocate on your behalf and work to demonstrate your innocence. They know the best ways to persuade juries and can help rebut everything the prosecutor tries to offer.

Contact the Attorneys at Arechigo & Stokka

Our law firm focuses on criminal defense. Attorney John Arechigo has dedicated his entire legal practice to defending those accused of committing crimes. His commitment to helping the accused is likely why John was recognized as a Rising Star by Super Lawyers multiple times. If you are charged with breaking the marijuana laws in North Dakota, contact Arechigo & Stokka to schedule a consultation.

Author Photo John T. Arechigo, Esq.

Attorney John Arechigo has a passion for criminal defense in St. Paul, MN. John received his J.D., from Hamline University School of Law and also carries a Bachelor of Arts from, The University of Minnesota. John was named Attorney of the Year for 2019 by Minnesota Lawyer. Additionally, John was also named as a 2019 Rising Star and was selected to Minnesota Super Lawyers in 2021. He devotes nearly 100% of his practice to defending individuals charged with a crime.

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