SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Drugs continue to devastate communities across KELOLAND and the United States. A bill going through the South Dakota state legislature right now would change the consequences for people caught illegally ingesting.
Senate Bill 115, which has bipartisan sponsorship, would change the penalty for unauthorized drug ingestion from a felony to a misdemeanor.
“What I like about this is that, it’s a change,” Democratic Sen. Reynold Nesiba said. “Instead of trying to incarcerate ourselves out of this problem, is to refocus on treatment and prevention.”
Sen. Nesiba is one of seven sponsors to Senate Bill 115. A felony has lasting repercussions.
“Getting a felony conviction is a real problem,” Nesiba said. “Because it follows you around. It makes it harder to get a job, it makes it harder to find housing, and … it makes it harder when one is done with treatment to really get back into being a fully participating citizen.”
KELOLAND News also spoke with Matt Walz about Senate Bill 115. He’s a representative for Keystone Treatment Center, which provides drug addiction treatment.
“We believe that this bill advances the dialogue about recovery and how the legal system has a very important role to play in being part of the solution,” Walz said.
He is looking for an approach backed up by data.
“At Keystone Treatment Center, we believe so strongly in recovery and bringing all parties to the table, from legal, mental health and treatment providers, and from law enforcement,” Walz said. “We want to see the data on what penalties make the most sense.”
Sen. Nesiba also brought up Senate Bill 114, which deals with an incentive program.