The data that the FBI has collected shows that SD is the national leader in per-capita drug-related arrests. The state’s laws are being reviewed by a legislative committee, which will decide whether or not changes need to be made. They are considering downgrading ingestion of a controlled substance, which is now a felony, to a misdemeanor. The review will be completed by the start of the 2020 season.
Kevin Thom, the Sheriff of Pennington County, doesn’t consider the idea an adequate solution. To reduce the number of addicts, he claimed, the state would need to increase the number of treatment and prevention programs regarding drugs. Aaron McGowan, the state attorney of Minnehaha County, added that many defendants decide to plead guilty and receive probation over treatment options.
He states that an increase in treatment programs might save taxpayer dollars as well. Many addicts stay in the criminal justice system for a prolonged period. Treating them when they are arrested for the first time might mend the issue.
South Dakota drug laws are specific in that they don’t distinguish the volume of controlled substances a person carries. Even trace amounts can lead individuals to get charged with drug possession.
Regarding ingestion, there are two regulations in place currently. The first, in effect since 1981, designates inhaling certain substances like paint thinner as a misdemeanor. The other more recent one, adopted in 2014, criminalizes ingesting controlled substances, deeming it a felony.
During the 2019 fiscal year, 877 individuals were charged for controlled substance ingestion. Over double that, 1,843, were punished for possession.