Fake 4/20 "Contest" Results In Online Criticism For Fargo Police

By Paul Gaita 04/25/18

The department reiterated that their weed contest was a joke but some felt they should spend their time on more important matters.

An angry man threatens his laptop computer with his fist,

Police departments are not often known for their sense of humor—though there are exceptions to that rule. But in the city of Fargo, North Dakota, law enforcement officials made an attempt to buck the trend with a tweet issued on April 20 to coincide with 4/20.

The tweet intimated that Fargo Police were giving away "prizes to the person that has the most marijuana," which could be picked up at 222 4th Street North—the address for police department headquarters.

Response to the tweet was decidedly mixed, with many Twitter users and online commentators expressing offense, while others praised Fargo Police for showing some levity.

For the record, medical marijuana is available to qualifying patients through the North Dakota Compassionate Care Act, which allows for three ounces to be used for 17 medical conditions, including terminal illness.

But recreational marijuana remains illegal in the Roughrider State, and can net some fairly harsh penalties; possession of one ounce or less is a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum sentence of 30 days in jail, a $1,000 fine, or both, while the sale of any amount is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $20,000 for the first offense.

Response from Twitter users to the Fargo Police tweet was mostly derisive, with some asking the department to put its energies toward more dangerous drugs ("Don't you have an opioid epidemic to deal with?"), and others wondering—either with irony or sincerity—if anyone accepted the invitation.

For their part, Fargo Police responded to most tweets by underscoring that the entire affair was a joke, that no one had arrived at headquarters to claim any "prize," and expressed some appreciation for those that saw the humor in their post. In response to one individual who asked, "Does anybody have a sense of humor," Fargo Police tweeted, "Thanks, we were wondering the same thing too."

In their coverage of the tweet, High Times noted that the real offense of the tweet was "lazy writing," in that it appeared to depict marijuana users as too stoned or stupid to not realize that such a "contest" would, in fact, be an invitation to imprisonment. "It's just the lame attempts at pseudo-entrapment, on our favorite holiday, nonetheless, that really grinds our gears," the article's author, Tim Kohut, concluded.

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, Amazon.com and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.