North Dakota Woman Charged with First-Degree Felony Possession for Bong Water

Forty-three-year-old Jessica Beske from Fargo, North Dakota was pulled over by local police while traveling through Minnesota. Now she faces prison time for possessing bong water and other cannabis paraphernalia.

According to a report from the Minnesota Informer, Beske was pulled over for speeding on May 8. When officers approached her vehicle, they smelled cannabis and searched her car. While they didn’t find any cannabis products, they did find a bong (with bong water), as well as a glass jar with a “crystal substance” inside, and an undefined number of pipes.

A residue test revealed that the bong water, the paraphernalia, and the glass jar all contained traces of methamphetamine. Additionally, the bong weighted eight ounces, but the jar allegedly weighed 13.2 ounces “in total with the packaging.” According to Beske, the jar was the “packaging” and there wasn’t enough of what was inside for law enforcement to weigh on its own, so it had to be weighed along with the jar. She also claims that she had no drugs on her at the time of the incident.

However, Beske has now been charged with first-degree felony possession specifically because of the bong water. State law equates eight ounces of bong water with eight ounces of methamphetamine. 

Minnesota-based drug reform activist, Kurtis Hanna, told the Minnesota Informer that prosecuting Beske is an abuse of the law’s intent. “The legislative intent behind the weight-based thresholds is to approximate whether a person is an end user or a dealer,” Hanna said. “The fact that some county prosecutors are subverting that clear intent and are charging end users as though they are wholesalers, ruining their lives in the process, is shameful.”

Law enforcement also proceeded to seize her car, and $2,400 in cash (which was verified as casino winnings from the night before the incident). State law allows police to permanently forfeit any vehicles used to transport drugs that are “intended for distribution or sale,” as well as the cash which police claim are “the proceeds of a controlled substance offense.”

In an interview, Beske explained her frustration at the situation. “It’s against common sense. It’s against everybody’s common sense,” she said.

In May 2023, Gov. Tim Walz signed a bill into law that decriminalized drug paraphernalia, which specifically states that the law applies even if there is leftover drug residue present.

The outcome of a 2009 Supreme Court case, State vs. Peck, ruled that water in a pipe could be considered a “drug mixture.” A testimony from a Minnesota State Patrol officer stated that bong water can be saved “for future use…either drinking it or shooting it in the veins.” Out of a total of seven court justices, only three argued against the misinformation regarding bong water. “Treating bong water as a mixture capable of sustaining a first-degree felony controlled-substance charge does not meet the purposes, aims, or objectives of the legislature when it established the weight-based system. Bong water is not marketed or sold by dealers, large or small, nor is it purchased by consumers. It is not even ordinarily consumed,” the justices wrote. “Bong water is usually discarded when the smoker is finished with consumption of the smoke filtered through the bong water. A person is not more dangerous, or likely to wreak more havoc, based on the amount of bong water that person possesses.”

In 2010, legislators in the Senate and House passed a bill to make bong water from the definition of a “mixture” if it contained less than four ounces. However, former Gov. Tim Pawlenty vetoed the bill, claiming that he did so on behalf of law enforcement. Another bill was introduced in 2011, which eventually led to the final four-ounce rule when it was signed by former Gov. Mark Dayton. Hanna commented on the passage of that law, which remains current today. “There doesn’t seem to be any good reason why 4 ounces is ok, but 5 is not,” Hanna said.

Minnesota Informer obtained a statement from assistant county attorney Scott Buhler about the most recent charges against Beske. “I will not comment on any pending cases. The criminal complaint filed in Ms. Beske’s case speaks for itself,” he said, and concluded that the team “simply enforces the laws of this state as written.”

Buhler was also responsible for forcing people to pay taxes on illegal drugs in 2014. “I simply charge it a lot because it leaves all options available regarding plea bargaining and sentencing,” Buhler said 10 years ago. Beske’s charges include a first-degree felony possession, which can lead to a $1 million fine and up to 30 years in prison. Additionally, she is also being charged with violating that very same illegal drug tax law, which can lead to a $14,000 fine and up to seven years in prison, and a charge for refusing a drug test when she was arrested.

These charges are unnecessary when considering that legislators agree that over criminalizing drugs has never been beneficial. A report called the “Drug Policy State of the Evidence,” which was published in February 2024, which explored scientific evidence on current drug policy in Minnesota. “Arresting people for drug use does not deter future use, crime recidivism, arrest, or incarceration,” the report authors stated. “While the primary intent of imprisoning people is deterrence, there is no evidence that it is effective. Studies show that imprisonment does not impact rates of drug use or arrest. Critically, however, release from prison is positively associated with heightened overdose risk.”

Beske said in a statement that she suffers from substance abuse problems that stemmed from an abusive ex. “The only thing I’m guilty of is using substances to lessen my mental suffering caused by a sick and abusive predator,” said Beske. “Addicts—women especially—are made to feel like public enemy number one, when in fact most of us have been victims of serious crime that will never be prosecuted.”

She added that he she were to be sentenced to 30 years in prison, it would make her life worse and force her back into drug abuse. “That’s why people use drugs mostly, is to cope,” Beske said.

The post North Dakota Woman Charged with First-Degree Felony Possession for Bong Water first appeared on High Times.


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