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Attorney General Talks about the Synthetic Drug Problem

Attorney General Marty Jackley talked with the Press & Dakotan about a number of drug-related issues facing his office, the legislature and the general public. One issue is so-called “Synthetic drugs.” They are often labeled with names such as K2, bath salts and night lights. Jackley summarized the problem as “Manufacturers take a lot of dangerous chemicals . . . never been tested, and mislabel some of them as bath salts . . . that give you hallucinations . . . then sell them for a lot of money.”

This problem arose in SD about five years ago. Initially the approach was to distinguish between the dangerous drugs and businesses and buyers. Possessing the drug was handled as a misdemeanor. And by sending out a mailing to 99 percent of the businesses the drug was usually voluntarily discontinued. Unfortunately the continued changes in how the drugs are being made have led to nine different chemical categories to now be treated as “drug analogs” which is a felony possession. Instead of being able to buy these over the counter they will have to use the Internet or under the table.

Hopefully this will lead to a decrease in the availability of the synthetic drugs and, far better, to a reduction in the evil effects of these drugs. Often users become addicted, display suicidal tendencies, and accelerated heart rate and kidney failure.

As part of this process of preventing and helping those using drugs, Jackley also discussed Senate Bill 70, which addresses public safety concerns in the state related to state prison overcrowding. The plan is to maintain and use a “heavy hammer on manufacturing and distribution of drugs.” But treat those at a lower-level in the criminal continuum, especially where addiction, alcoholism and DUI offenders are involved, with treatment and drug courts.

This approach which uses 24/7 monitoring, drug and DUI courts has succeeded quite well. It is touted by some studies as producing a 50-percent drop in the number of persons being re-prosecuted and incarcerated. Prosecutors must remain as “gate-keepers” in determining which court offenders will appear before. And the sheriffs and police, not the Department of Corrections, must run this “offender-pay” program. This method is focused on addicts and addiction and their return as productive citizens in society, not simply filling jails and prison with bodies.

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