WATERTOWN, SD -
Some communities see results as the state is closing in on a year since lawmakers banned synthetic drugs.
The state doesn't have numbers compiled to show if this is true in South Dakota as a whole, but at least some communities are seeing a big drop in cases involving synthetic drugs.
Watertown can trace its turnaround to the time the state law took effect. And as officers patrol the streets in Watertown, they know there could be fake pot in town. But it's safe to assume there's at least less of it.
"Cases are few and far between. It's not as prevalent as it was before it became a controlled substance, that's for sure,” detective Nic Ahmann said. “But we do see it every once in a while."
Police handled 21 synthetic drug related cases in the year leading up to the state ban and five since. Ahmann figures a combination of factors have contributed to the decline.
Watertown banned synthetic drugs on its own before the state did. But the city offense was a misdemeanor; the state's is a felony.
"People don't want to get a felony on their record so they're not going to take those risks that they normally would for a misdemeanor," Ahmann said.
The state law also made the synthetic drugs harder to come by as it bans them from communities surrounding Watertown too. Ahmann suspects attention the drugs received also helped.
"When they see these cases of people dying across the United States and especially when it hits them locally with a friend that has a bad reaction or a bad trip from it, they're less likely to use that drug," Ahmann said.
Whatever the reasons, Ahmann is happy to see the trend in Watertown. He hopes it only becomes more difficult for violators to find.
Other communities are seeing similar trends. Aberdeen handled a big case over the summer, but hasn't had one since October.
It's not much of an issue in Huron either. A supplier in the city quit selling synthetic drugs prior to the state law so cases were already decreasing.
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