Sioux Falls, SD
Less than a week after South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard and state lawmakers placed an immediate ban on synthetic drugs, drug makers may be looking for ways around it.
Law enforcement and prosecutors say synthetic drugs popped up fast in South Dakota, and this new law gives them more tools to fight the synthetic drugs battle.
While these drugs have been called fake, or give the impression they are less serious, the Minnehaha County State's Attorney says the swift and severe action in the state these last four days should serve as a warning sign as to how dangerous they really are.
"It's not pot. These are dangerous chemicals and the legislature correctly identified that and included them in the list of controlled substances," Minnehaha County State's Attorney Aaron McGowan said.
Four days ago, it was legal to possess synthetic drugs in South Dakota. Today, it will get you up to ten years behind bars. The new law puts possession or distribution of synthetic drugs in the same category as meth or cocaine.
The new law is written more broadly to give prosecutors more tools when it comes to convicting users of synthetic substances.
"The new law makes possession a class four felony. With distribution, you're also facing one year mandatory sentence in the state penitentiary. So there are stiff penalties and people need to be mindful of that," McGowan said.
Sioux Falls Police currently test all suspected synthetic drugs in the lab. If a test comes out positive, then officers go back out to make the arrest. With the new law in place, the department recently ordered field test kits that officers can use on the scene and make arrests quicker.
"We're not sure exactly what all these field test kits are going to cover. If it's going to cover all the different chemicals that are illegal by our state law or if it's only certain ones. So once we get those kits, we'll have to do some more testing to see if it’s going to work for us in South Dakota," Sioux Falls Police Public Information Officer Sam Clemens said.
"I think we'll continue to react with whatever we're seeing on the streets to make sure those substances are illegal and keep the community safe," McGowan said.
The penalty for possessing or distributing synthetic drugs is up to ten years in prison. However, anyone convicted of distributing them faces at least one mandatory year in the state pen.