Preventing meth use a priority for 2017 legislative session

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Low state revenue, continuing to work on tribal relations, and supporting education were among the topics discussed at Tuesday's State of the State address in Pierre.

Those weren't the only topics Governor Dennis Daugaard addressed. Criminal justice reform was one issue taking center stage.

Gov. Dennis Daugaard says, "The total prison population today is lower than it would have been without any reform. But it's higher than we thought it would be when we passed the Public Safety Improvement Act."

But why? The answer is methamphetamine, at least that's what Daugaard and hundreds of others in the state believe it to be.

Daugaard says in recent years, use of meth has increased with the drug being produced industrially, rather than in a person's home and he says it's being trafficked across the state.

Rep. Craig Tieszen says, "15-20 years ago we had a big meth epidemic. Now it's back with a vengeance and I think we need to have education, enforcement, and treatment. It's a serious problem that's not just a threat to law enforcement but to our state at large."
And now many want to take action.

Rep. Thomas Brunner says, "We know that putting people in prison isn't necessarily the answer. We've got to stop them from coming into the state."
Daugaard announced in today's State of the State address a few ways to stop it. He plans to introduce a new task force, consisting of four South Dakota Highway Patrol officers; working to stop meth from entering several areas of the Mount Rushmore State.

Sen. Kevin Killer says, "I see it hitting home, especially in my community. Not only reservation committees though, but Rapid City and all that."
Daugaard also plans to propose legislation incentivizing treatment for users by giving people one chance to reduce felony drug charges to a class 1 misdemeanor.
But also, he and many others think stopping meth comes from being pro-active.
Daugaard says, "We need to educate people, especially young people, to prevent use of meth.
Adjusting the Public Safety Act to include wire-tapping cell phones is also on the agenda to put an end to meth.