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Grammy-winning musician pleads guilty in border crossing case

Forum News Service

BOWBELLS, N.D. — Melissa Etheridge, a Grammy Award-winning musician, pleaded guilty to possessing marijuana when crossing the U.S.-Canada border at Portal, N.D.

Online court records show Judge Todd Cresap imposed $1,000 in fees, ordered a chemical dependency evaluation and sentenced Etheridge to six months of unsupervised probation during a Burke County District Court hearing Tuesday, Nov. 14.

An attorney, Thomas Dickson, entered the plea for Etheridge, who will see the misdemeanor dropped if she completes terms of the plea deal.

An affidavit for Etheridge's arrest stated the musician was on her way from Alberta to Minneapolis in August as part of an ongoing tour when a drug-sniffing dog alerted border officers to the possibility of drugs on the bus. A subsequent search discovered "cigar-type cigarettes, a (vial) containing a liquid, and green plastic containers with a green wax-like substance."

Etheridge told officers that the items belonged to her. The cigarettes and vial both contained hash oil and the wax was a "marijuana-infused balm for topical relief."

Etheridge said she uses the items as treatment for cancer. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004 and has previously discussed her use of medical marijuana. She has been an advocate of the substance since then and was more recently a partner in a venture to make cannabis-infused wine.

In Sept. 9, musician Todd Rundgren also was stopped at the border while on his way to Fargo. A search of his bus turned up liquid THC, which Rundgren said he didn’t know was illegal in North Dakota. He pleaded guilty Oct. 14 to possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia.  He was ordered to pay $750, undergo a chemical dependency evaluation and complete recommended treatment. Cresap also imposed six months of unsupervised probation for misdemeanors that will be dropped if Rundgren follows conditions of the plea deal.

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