BROOKINGS, S.D. (KELO) – Brookings County will see its highest number of felony convictions this year. And one of the driving forces behind this number may surprise you.
When you think of vaping, you probably think of users using a device filled with vape juice or e-liquid. But in Brookings County, people are using the devices with something else- THC oil.
“Individuals can go to Colorado, buy this THC oil over the counter and bring it back to South Dakota and attach it to a vaping device and they can easily ingest it,” Brookings County States Attorney, Dan Nelson said.
Nelson says the use THC oil is one of the driving forces behind more felony convictions in Brookings County.
“It’s a felony here in South Dakota to be in possession of THC oil, it’s a scheduled one substance and I think there is a lot of young people who may not realize that it is a felony offense, I think there’s information believed by our young people and other adults that THC oil is still considered a misdemeanor and it’s not, it’s prosecuted as a felony,” Nelson said.
While Nelson says methamphetamine is still the number one felony drug in Brookings County, THC oil is a close second.
“It’s inching closer and closer each year, and especially this year, but the felony drug problem here in South Dakota is certainly the driver behind felony offenses committed,” Nelson said.
Over at the Brookings Police Department, assistant chief Derrick Powers says in the last couple of years they’ve seen an increase in incidents involving controlled substances.
“That could be anything from coming in contact with someone ingesting a controlled substance or possession of that or an investigation of distributing a controlled substance,” assistant chief, Derrick Powers said. “Those numbers from 2017 to 2019 have doubled for us.”
Powers says the department has been more proactive investigating and finding those controlled substances.
“Trying to go out and look for that, provide training for our officers, focusing on those types of things to try and deter individuals from bringing that activity to Brookings,” Powers said.
Nelson says his office is working hard to confront the rise in felony convictions.
“We’ve used a new software program to where we are transferring audio and digital evidence to the defense attorneys in a much more timely and efficient manner, which allows us to move the case much quicker in the court systems, the second thing is we’ve automated a lot of the legal documents, we’ve modernized the legal documents to where they can be processed real time as its happening in court,” Nelson said.
Nelson says they are also working on targeting distributors and making sure they’re held accountable.
“I think we’ve been successful in those three things,” Nelson said.
However Nelson says he believes the problems associated with THC oil aren’t going away anytime soon.
“I think we will continue to confront this issue of THC oil and I think it is going to be a growing concern in South Dakota and how we can properly enforce that and hold people accountable and bring awareness, it is dangerous drug, people are dying from vaping THC oil, and I think it’s a growing concern and I think it’s a growing concern that is here to stay,” Nelson said.
Nelson says the county has also had a number of first time felony offenders.