Sheriff discusses growing drug use at Democratic forum

HURON – Marijuana and methamphetamine use is increasing and recent legislation revamping the criminal justice system is putting more of the burden of jailing offenders on counties, Beadle County Sheriff Doug Solem said Thursday.
County jails in Sioux Falls and Brookings are overcrowded and Grant County is paying Roberts County to house some of its inmates, he said at the District 22 Democratic Forum.
“It’s happening all over the state,” Solem said. “What that (legislation) did is put a lot of people on presumption probation.
“So anybody that was arrested for a controlled substance, or anything that would have actually put you in the penitentiary in the past, it now just puts you on probation,” he said.
A reclassification of a number of felonies is putting a lot of people back on the street, he said.
In the last six months in Huron, there have been 24 marijuana-related arrests and 21 for methamphetamine, Solem said. Use of opioids is also a growing problem in Beadle County and across the country.
Jail staff is busy with an increasing number of people sentenced to the 24/7 alcohol program or for a urine analysis to determine drug use.
Solem said 80 people come to the jail twice a day for a portable breath test, while about 60 have been ordered by a judge to come in for a urine analysis two or three times a week.
The staff also does 10 to 15 urine analysis tests for people serving on federal probation, he said.
“It used to be that the jail was always full because of people that were drinking,” Solem said. “But now it’s kind of changed.”
Marijuana is now legal in eight states, and 11 more are in line to be legal in 2017, he said.
It means marijuana is coming to places like South Dakota from other states instead of from the Mexican drug cartels. They have now shifted to smuggling methamphetamine into the United States.
But it’s also not difficult to make meth in the home, and Huron law enforcement officers have busted a number of those in recent years.
Mari-juana is four to six times stronger than it was in the 1980s and 1990s, Solem said, and there is also concern about edible marijuana which can appeal to kids when it’s in brownies or gummies.
Methamphetamine, at about $100 a gram here, is extremely addictive. While it provides a quick high, it takes away the appetite, can cause hallucinations and can keep the user awake for days, even two weeks at a time, Solem said.
“It’s very dangerous stuff,” he said.
Meanwhile, he said opioid abuse is also on the rise, with dozens of people around the country dying of an overdose daily.
Heroin, particularly popular in the east, is cheaper for addicts to buy than over the counter prescription drugs, he said.
“If they can’t get the prescription drugs they need, then they purchase heroin instead,” Solem said.


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