Attorney General’s Response to Recommendation to Significantly Reduce or Decriminalize Controlled Substance Use in South Dakota
PIERRE, S.D.- Attorney General Marty Jackley responds to the Urban Institute recommendation that South Dakota reduce possession and ingestion of a controlled substance to a misdemeanor.
“As South Dakota’s Attorney General, I have and will continue to strongly support crime prevention efforts and opportunities to avoid incarceration when it does not place the public at risk, which includes drug and DUI courts and our state’s 24/7 Sobriety Program. I joined with our States Attorneys, Sheriffs, and Chiefs of Police to support Senate Bill 70 reforms, because it presented the opportunity with proper implementation to improve our justice system. However, any attempt to decriminalize or turn serious felony drug possession or ingestion into a low level misdemeanor would unnecessarily place the public’s health and safety at risk. The public would be better served by strengthening our prevention, enforcement and treatment efforts including focusing on a strong anti-meth and heroin campaign,” said Jackley.
“The further attempt to extend presumption probation to the more serious felony crimes in the wake of EB-5 and GEAR UP financial misconduct is similarly out of touch with what South Dakota must do to improve the public’s trust on conflicts-of-interest and government programs,” Jackley further stated.
“The vast majority of serious crimes committed in South Dakota are chemically propelled. Homicides, robberies, burglaries and numerous other felony offenses are driven by illicit drug use and addiction. Individuals that buy, sell, and use these drugs are dangerous. One can’t possess illegal drugs internally, without having previously possessed them externally. Individuals that have ingested these dangerous poisons are proven to be more of a danger to society than non-using individuals. Watering down our drug laws any further would have serious consequences to public safety and the quality of life in South Dakota.
I am adamantly opposed to decriminalizing drug use in the name of reducing prison populations and saving money. To do so, would lead to more serious felony offenses and be counterproductive,” stated Minnehaha County States Attorney Aaron McGowan.
South Dakota law enforcement continues to see an increase in drug activity in marijuana, methamphetamine, heroin and other controlled substances in our state that are often tied to violent crime. High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDT) numbers indicate that in 2015 9.023 grams of heroin was seized compared to the 30.89 grams seized in the first three months of 2016. Methamphetamine pounds seized has more than doubled since 2003 from 14 pounds to 31 pounds in 2015.
Violence associated with drug use affects public safety and extends to officer involved shootings. Since becoming Attorney General in 2009, Attorney General Jackley has investigated 24 officer involved shootings and of those, 12 subjects tested positive for either marijuana and/ or a controlled substance.