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The Rise in Interstate Drug Trade in North Dakota

Criminal groups transport drugs into and through North Dakota using a variety of means: private vehicles, package delivery services, tractor-trailers, and rail services. Drugs are also less frequently transported via aircraft.

Data from arrests and sentencing show an increase in drug availability and/or drug use in North Dakota. Between 1989 and 1998, arrests for drug violations in North Dakota increased by 122%. However, in the following year, 1999, arrests decreased slightly. Nevertheless, there was an overall increase of 95% for drug arrests. Furthermore, An estimated 5.3% of North Dakota residents used illicit drugs in the past month. Two-thirds of drug treatment admissions in North Dakota were for marijuana.

Some of these numbers can be attributed to transportation through and within North Dakota. North Dakota’s highways make transporting drugs across state and country borders very easy. Interstates 29 and 94, two major interstates, intersect in Fargo, ND. Interstate 29 connects Canada, Fargo, Grand Forks, and Kansas City, Missouri. Interstate 94 connects Bismarck, Fargo, Minneapolis, and Chicago. Canada and North Dakota are also connected by the 83, 85, and 281 highways.

If you or a loved one have fallen victim to drug abuse, reach out to us for help at 701-380-5836.

The History of Drug Trade in North Dakota

North Dakota shares its northern border with Canada. There are 18 authorized ports of entry (POEs) in North Dakota, but only 3 of these are staffed 24 hours a day. Additionally, the border is remote and sparsely populated, and numerous roads lack U.S. Customs Service or U.S. Border Patrol stations. On a daily basis, local residents on both sides of the border cross unchallenged. This means that criminals can cross the border unchallenged as well. These remote areas provide criminal groups with many opportunities to smuggle drugs and other contraband into North Dakota. Moreover, with the numerous small local airports and landing strips, there is a decent amount of nonrestricted access to Canada via aircraft, which also contributes to the interstate drug trade.

Criminal groups, often from Mexico, also transport drugs to North Dakota. They usually do this using private vehicles and the highway system, as mentioned earlier. The highway system connects North Dakota’s most populated cities to one another as well as to other major cities in neighboring states, such as Kansas City, Missouri, making it easy to move drugs.

The Consequences of the Interstate Drug Trade in North Dakota

Bringing illegal drugs into any state does not benefit its residents. By there being such an accessible highway system, transporting drugs is especially easy in North Dakota. This makes the amount of illicit drugs increase and makes them more accessible. This contributes significantly to the statistics mentioned earlier, such as the general rise in drug related arrests.

While heroin in particular is not a big threat to North Dakotan residents, its presence does have a rippling effect. Gun violence and street gang-related activity have increased because gangs from neighboring states come to North Dakota to distribute heroin and synthetic opioids.


Methamphetamine is the largest drug threat in North Dakota. More people were admitted to treatment facilities for methamphetamine use than any other illegal drug (besides marijuana) from 1994 to 1999. More than 60% of people sentenced from 1997 to 2000 were sentenced for methamphetamine-related offenses in North Dakota. Because of the increase in accessibility, the price of methamphetamine is decreasing, making it even easier for purchase. These numbers become even more concerning when you learn that methamphetamine is affecting North Dakotan children. Over 11% of high school students in North Dakota have reported lifetime usage of methamphetamine. This is even higher than the national average.

Methamphetamine users can be an immediate threat to themselves and others. At the end of a binge, users can become violent. In this state, they can become triggered by anything and can act unpredictably. Users in the past have set their homes on fire, destroyed appliances, and attacked others. This can be especially dangerous for users who have children or are children.

Production Consequences

Most methamphetamine collected by law enforcement is produced in California or Mexico. However, North Dakota has prime areas for methamphetamine production as well. Most North Dakotan methamphetamine production takes place in the wilderness, like national forests. There are is around a whopping 13,200 acres of wilderness in North Dakota. That’s a lot of space to make meth. Additionally, meth labs cause harm to those working in the labs, law enforcement who bust and clean labs, and the environment around it. Inhaling the toxic chemicals is not good for the body.

Other Consequences

As mentioned, much of the methamphetamine in North Dakota comes from Mexico. Often, Mexican criminal groups make agreements with Native Americans on reservations. Then, they use the reservation as a ‘home base’ and employ Native Americans to distribute drugs outside of the reservation. Those who live on reservations might be more inclined to make these deals with criminal groups because of the poverty that plagues Native American reservations. For instance, over 40% of Native Americans who live on reservations in North Dakota are in poverty.

The increase in availability and accessibility, price drop, and organized distribution of methamphetamine makes it, in short, easy for one to access them. This can make it difficult for one to break the addiction. A user could be in danger of those they buy from depending how involved they are. A seller or producer might feel threatened if they think a user is going to rat them out and threaten to kill the user.

Help Can Be Found, Despite the Interstate Drug Trade

Because of the major highways and towns in North Dakota, transporting drugs is not a difficult task. Even moving drugs across country lines is not much of a challenge. This gives criminal groups plenty of opportunity to import and distribute illicit drugs, with methamphetamine being the most in-demand. Unfortunately, a lot of youth have become victim to methamphetamine use.

Creation and consumption of methamphetamine can detrimental to individuals. Inhaling the toxic chemicals in production can lead to lung damage and even death. Furthermore, coming off of a high from methamphetamine usage can be physically dangerous for users and others around them. Not to mention, the other long-term consequences methamphetamine can have on the relationships, health, and safety of the user.

You can still get help, no matter how long you’ve been addicted. We understand that breaking the addiction can be scary. By being on our site, you are already off to a great start. Let us help you step away from your dependency and start on a path to a better life. Call us at 701-380-5836 to talk more about your options.