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286-pound pot bust a record for West Fargo police, maybe for ND troopers, too

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A West Fargo police dog sits in front of a load of marijuana police said was found during a traffic stop Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017, on Interstate 94. Special to The Forum2 / 2

WEST FARGO – A 286-pound marijuana bust on Interstate 94 has set a new record for the West Fargo Police Department and may be the largest for the North Dakota Highway Patrol, spokesmen for the two agencies said Tuesday, Nov. 21.

The load of marijuana, with an estimated street value $1,370,000, was seized after an Askov, Minn., woman was pulled over Tuesday morning for speeding as she was driving east through the metro area.

The bust was made with the help of West Fargo police dog Disco, who alerted officers to the presence of marijuana in the car, West Fargo police Sgt. Adam Gustafson said.

“That stuff comes through more than people might know,” thanks to more western states legalizing the medical or recreational use of marijuana, the sergeant said.

Gustafson said Tuesday’s bust easily eclipsed the previous record for West Fargo police. That bust occurred Sept. 3, when $700,000 in drugs were seized in a traffic stop on I-94. Seized then was 125 pounds of raw marijuana, 2,811 grams of marijuana wax (nearly 6.2 pounds), 168 grams of hashish and two vials of marijuana oil.

Highway Patrol Capt. Bryan Niewind said the seizure “would be larger than any case I’m aware of” that his agency has been involved in.

Niewind and Gustafson said their agencies were alerted by the Stutsman County Sheriff’s Office that a suspicious vehicle was heading east toward the Fargo area.

Niewind said a trooper in the Fargo area recognized the vehicle from the Stutsman County description and clocked it going 63 mph in a 55 mph zone.

The trooper then made the traffic stop on the interstate exit ramp to 45th Street South, Niewind said.

During the traffic stop, Disco alerted the handler to drugs, giving officers probable cause to search the vehicle and find the marijuana, police said in a news release.

After Disco’s discovery, 34-year-old Kimberly Norton was arrested on suspicion of possessing marijuana with intent to deliver and was booked into the Cass County Jail, police said. Court records did not list an attorney for her.

Gustafson said such drug busts “would be very normal if there was a lot of enforcement. This is a luck sort of situation.”

Niewind noted that another traffic violation on Tuesday led to a 30-pound marijuana seizure and the arrest of a California man in Bismarck. The two plastic containers of pot found were estimated to have a street value of $49,000.

Niewind said such seizures are becoming more common. While marijuana used to come mainly from Mexico, it is now grown on the West Coast.

“There’s also a lot of (law enforcement) pressure on interstates south of us, so they (drug runners) have been shifting their routes north,” Niewind said. “There’s more coming through, and we’re doing a better job.”