Melissa Etheridge hopes her summer (17) drug possession arrest will help spread awareness about medical marijuana.
The Come To My Window singer was arrested in August (17) after U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officials in North Dakota found marijuana oil during a search of her tour bus, when she was crossing the border from Canada. Etheridge claimed she uses the oil to manage pain from cancer, and explained to the officers it is legal in California where she lives.
She was booked for possession of a controlled substance and pleaded not guilty.
Melissa admits she was "careless" about the situation, but she hopes it starts a dialogue.
"I'm mad at myself," she tells Variety. "I was careless. It's an international border, I should've known better. But I hope this can move the issue forward, shed some light on how many people use cannabis as a medicine."
Melissa explains she has crossed over the border several times in the past, but she knew the stop in August was different when she saw the law enforcement agents with their drug-sniffing dogs.
"I've never had a search like that," she says. "(They) went through every little thing. I had some cannabis oil, actually a vape (vapor) pen, in my toiletry case and they found it. They didn't get much, it was a small amount."
Etheridge started using cannabis in 2004 after she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Officials in North Dakota legalised medical marijuana last year (16), but the law has not been implemented in the U.S. state yet.
"They have yet to change the laws and adjust," she explains. "I went from Canada, which is about to legalise marijuana sales, to North Dakota, which just went medical, yet nobody seems to know what to do."
However, she is not worried about how the arrest will impact her or her ability to travel.
"I was given a misdemeanour," she adds. "I was just detained for a couple of hours. There was no bond. It will cost me lawyer fees and a little money."