Rest of the Story

So Year Number Two is in the books for me as your States Attorney and, it was time to travel down to Bismarck for our Winter Conference. News about pending legislation, budgets, constitutional initiatives and new problems in the criminal law.


There was little good news but, the consensus appeared to be anticipation that was going to change in very short order with our new President. First up was Marsy’s Law. As predicted, it was a mess but, the Hon. Wayne Stenjehm had taken a proactive approach and the new advisory cards and protocols are in place.

The Medical Marijuana debacle was not so rosy. The Dept. of Health, AG, BCI and Pharmacy Board were struggling to create (and fund) a comprehensive amendment that did not run afoul of existing constitutional provisions or children’s safety. Predictably, the language adopted by the out-of-state sponsors was a mish-mash of other state laws and regulations which immediately conflicted our state law.

Suffice it to say the focus was to set up a process of accountability to avoid the problems in Oregon, Washington, Montana, ad nauseum. It was clear that North Dakota voters wanted cancer and really sick people (not recreational users) to benefit from this non-medical protocol and, to protect kids from overdosing on pot edibles. Remember, no physician is involved in this—it’s self medicating.

It’s going to take several months to sort out all the medical, regulatory, pharmaceutical and criminal penalties which automatically apply to this scenario. Remember that it is still ILLEGAL under federal law to possess or use marijuana for ANY purpose; or, to make money off it for federal tax purposes.

The meeting was surreal discussing these issues with the looming departure of President Obama who personally created this mess by ordering his Justice Dept. to just ignore states who were “legalizing” pot. The same scenario as Sanctuary Cities thumbing their nose at federal immigration law. The policies of the new president were yet to be revealed, so, the entire discussion seemed pointless.

Next up was funding. Summary? No money this year from Bismarck to help out in the Wild West. Protestors were discussed at the state capital in a private meeting with the AG. The States Attorneys (and Mr. Stenjehm) were not real keen on the neuvo media trend of trying to classify mass property damage, personal injury and obstruction of government functions as a “protest” instead of a crime.

Unfortunately, with the daily dose of this nonsense, I’m afraid the top of the federal government is going to have to help out our local legislators who are currently debating scads of bills dealing with criminal trespass, masks, rioting and obstructing traffic. I applaud them for trying to address what is becoming a desperate problem for law enforcement, travelers and ranchers.

I also met with Representative Luke Simons at the capital and he asked for me to call him soon, so, I hope to get caught up and call him ASAP. Regardless, the saddest thing about the trip was the news Thursday morning that Rolette County Deputy Sheriff Colt Allery, only age 29, had been killed by a fleeing felon in a stolen pickup truck. Made more curious since it took almost a week before ne’er do well Melvin DeLong was named as the killer.

So, this year’s conference was not the light-hearted affair of the past as the sins of the rest of this country caught up with us up here in North Dakota again. My thoughts and prayers go out to Deputy Allery’s family and, this nonsense of killing our finest must stop soon.

Pat Merriman is the Dunn County State Attorney. He is a photographer and also officiates high school and college athletics events in the area.

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