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Dave Roepke, Published December 26 2009

Medical pot ‘not on radar’: Local police say 2 arrests not start of a trend

Two recent arrests for marijuana distribution in the area are suspected to involve medical pot legal in other states, but local police don’t anticipate an influx of similar cases.

“I don’t see it as a huge concern right now,” said Sgt. Mat Sanders, who heads Fargo’s narcotics unit. “It’s certainly not on our radar.”

In the Fargo case, Jerry Alan Selness, 51, of Springfield, Ore., was arrested on Dec. 6 and charged with possession of marijuana with intent to deliver. He allegedly had 9.8 pounds of marijuana when arrested at Motel 6 in Fargo.

Sanders said Selness told police he had a license to grow medicinal marijuana in California. Selness said he was heading to Minneapolis, where he could make a higher profit, according to court records.

Even if it was grown legally, it doesn’t matter in terms of North Dakota law, Sanders said.

“The level of offense won’t change,” he said.

Jesse Lange, an attorney representing Selness, did not return a phone message seeking comment.

Moorhead police arrested three men Nov. 16 at 109 3rd St. N.W. in Dilworth, where police say they seized 7½ pounds of marijuana.

Police believe that Kevin Rodger Soland, 29, bought marijuana from medicinal dispensaries in California and a legal grower in his home state of Oregon, search warrants filed in the investigation show.

Ross Brandborg, Soland’s attorney, said he wasn’t ready to discuss allegations made against his client.

The cases come after federal agents were directed in new Justice Department guidelines released in late October to avoid raiding dispensaries of medical pot in the 14 states that have legalized such facilities.

Despite the change in federal policy, area police say they don’t expect an increase in trafficking connected to medicinal operations in other states.

It could develop into an issue at some point, though it’s not a worry yet, Sanders said. Lt. Tory Jacobson, Moorhead police spokesman, said he’s not aware of any concerns from the department’s drug agents.

But if more states legalize medicinal marijuana, said Jacobson, it’s bound to put an increased burden on police in states that don’t have similar laws.

“It opens up a whole box of different issues,” he said.

Minnesota’s Legislature passed a bill earlier this year legalizing medical pot, but it was vetoed by Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who said he was worried it would lead to increased drug use.

Brandborg, the attorney for Soland, said he’s noticed an increased police focus on marijuana distribution in the area, but he doesn’t think the out-of-state availability of medicinal pot is a factor.

“I think there are a lot of reasons,” Brandborg said, such as declining methamphetamine production.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Roepke at (701) 241-5535