Colorado medical marijuana patient pleads guilty to felony pot possession in Minnesota

As he was driving from his Colorado residence to Minnesota to visit his sick father last June, Ben Hallgren had a valid prescription for medical marijuana in the state he now calls home.

Hallgren also had just under two pounds of medicine he purchased through a Colorado dispensary in his car, and while he drove through Jackson County, an officer pulled him over for having a headlight out, noticed drug paraphernalia in his car, searched it, and arrested him.

Today, Hallgren, 23, pleaded guilty to a felony count of drug possession. But he struck a deal with prosecutors where if he keeps his nose clean for three to five years, he'll avoid prison and the conviction will be expunged from his record.

Ironically, one of the conditions of the plea deal is that Hallgren stay away from alcohol or mood-altering drugs -- unless they're prescribed by a doctor.

As detailed in a November Star Tribune report, the arrest cost Hallgren his job as a ski technician in Breckenridge. His father passed away in August while his legal situation was still in limbo.

Hallgren says the plea deal will also force him to linger in Minnesota for a while, as he can't leave the state until his probation is transferred to Colorado. That could take as long as six months.

But there's a sliver lining.

"I'm sure my mom [she lives in Carlton] is happy to hear I'll be here for about three to six months," Hallgren jokes.

While he's happy to avoid jail time, Hallgren says he still feels he and others that are prosecuted for marijuana offenses -- especially in a state set to legalize certain forms of medical cannabis later this year-- are treated unjustly by the legal system.

"My dad had cancer for two years, and he would've been arrested for possession of pot but not methadone," Hallgren tells Fox 9. "It kind of makes me want to get more informed to try and change things. I'm mad that my dad wasn't able to get medicine, mad I put my family through this."

"It's pot," Hallgren  adds. "It's kind of ridiculous."

Hallgren suffers from irritable bowel syndrome, a condition not included in the set that qualifies Minnesotans for medical marijuana.

Even if did qualify, state officials say Hallgren would have to purchase medical cannabis from a state-operated distributor in order to medicate himself legally.

Image credit -- Hallgren's GoFundMe page

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