Law enforcement won't change how it confronts marijuana possession

2012-12-15T05:30:00Z 2013-01-22T18:58:30Z Law enforcement won't change how it confronts marijuana possessionRyan Lengerich Journal staff Rapid City Journal
December 15, 2012 5:30 am  • 

Two men moving from Washington state to Ohio were traveling through South Dakota with legally purchased medical marijuana when a Highway Patrol officer nabbed them and charged them with possession.

To avoid jail time, the men pleaded guilty in July to felonies and paid a $2,500 fine.

Now, five months later, possessing marijuana in small amounts has been legalized by voters in Washington and nearby Colorado,which means more people with pot will likely be traveling through South Dakota and risking arrest in a state with some of the toughest possession and sale laws in the Midwest.

Rapid City Police Chief Steve Allender said the legalization of marijuana in Colorado, which is just a six-hour drive from Rapid City, will not affect how his officers enforce the state's drug laws.

"We are going to subject them to South Dakota law. I don't believe it will be a good defense that they came from Colorado or Washington," he said recently.

Spearfish attorney Matthew Kinney said he expects that more people will be bringing marijuana to or through South Dakota since more than 54 percent of Colorado's voters approved Amendment 64, which allows the possession of up to one ounce of pot for anyone 21 or older. It also allows for the sale of pot at retail stores.

"If they are going to go through I-90 to go to Minneapolis, they are not going to think about South Dakota law," Kinney said of those who choose to travel through western South Dakota.

Marijuana trafficking likely won't increase due to Colorado's new law, Kinney said. However, pot smokers may think they are allowed to have the smaller amounts with them or that the chances of getting caught will be slim.

"For personal use amounts of marijuana, then the answer is yes, the court system is going to be affected," Kinney said.

Whether Colorado and Washington voters were right to legalize recreational marijuana use is less important now to law enforcement in nearby states than how to deal with the possible fallout.

In Wyoming, law enforcement officers are worried that college students in Laramie, just an hour from Fort Collins, Colo., will make pot runs to their neighboring state.

South Dakota has the benefit of a one-state buffer from the Colorado border, but Allender still expects smokers to carry it through the state.

Capt. Kevin Karley with the state Highway Patrol said there is no way to know what impact legalization in Colorado will have on South Dakota. His officers, however, have made a number of large-scale pot arrests in the past year involving out-of-staters.

In South Dakota, possession of 2 ounces or less is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in prison and a $2,000 fine. Any more than that is a felony that can bring a prison sentence of up to 15 years. Selling more than half an ounce of marijuana is a felony carrying a mandatory 30-day sentence. Any marijuana found in a car leads to a 90-day suspended license for a first offense.

Emmett Reistroffer was on the front lines pushing for legalized medical marijuana in South Dakota in 2010 as part of the Coalition for Compassion. The measure failed convincingly in 2010 after just missing passage in 2006.

"They will know where it is grown, where it is sold, how much money it makes and who is responsible for paying taxes," Reistroffer said about Colorado's new law.

He doesn't expect legalization in Colorado to lead to  more trafficking in South Dakota.

"Our own black market for marijuana is the only contributing factor for marijuana coming into our state," he said.

The Colorado and Washington experiments will provide a test case worth watching by South Dakota lawmakers, Reistroffer said. If South Dakota were to enact less restrictive marijuana laws in the future, he said it should do so in a way that best fits the culture of the state.

"What I do support is the idea of gaining control and regulation of marijuana, either medical or for all adults," Reistroffer said. "We are overly punitive and counterproductive in arresting them and jailing them.

"We have the opportunity to learn from those states, and I hope we don't wait 10 years. If we are the last to change we will be the last black market."

Contact Ryan Lengerich at 394-8418 or ryan.lengerich@rapidcityjournal.com.

Copyright 2015 Rapid City Journal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(22) Comments

  1. Henry Juhala
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    Henry Juhala - December 22, 2012 6:16 am
    You would prefer for other states to change laws or at least be compassionate towards you so you can carry certain weapons in their state. You want them to comply with what you feel is a priority for you, but you refuse to allow compassion for similar priorities for people visiting your own state who have equally valid but different priorities on a different issues.

    Do you see the hubris, arrogance and hypocrisy in your statement?
  2. Henry Juhala
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    Henry Juhala - December 22, 2012 6:08 am
    Why so you think South Dakota loses so many of its own sons and daughters to other states". It is precisely because of these kinds of attittudes. Rather than seeking to value the lives of native sons and daughters, the state residents often impose their own legalistic attitudes on others and expects them to comply or get out and go somewhere else. Locals often expect others to change and comply with their narrow view of things rather than themselves change for the betterment of their own kids and society at large.
  3. Henry Juhala
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    Henry Juhala - December 22, 2012 5:59 am
    What hypocrisy. Remember that the next time you fudge on your taxes or go 36 miles per hour in a 35 mile per hour speed limit zone. I suggest every time you speed you go and promptly turn yourself in to law enforcement. I also suggest, in order to comply with your way of thinking, that we hire thousands more police officers, court officers and jailers and build dozens more law enforcement facilities to force 100 percent compliance with ALL our traffic and highway laws.

    Citizens of a state are their most precious asset. Putting the life of just one of them in danger because someone was speeding is too great a cost. We should put police officers at ever stop sign, at every location the speed limit changes, positioned outside local watering holes with breathalizer testers and in every school zone to be sure we stop all people who break the law, even if just by 1 mile per hour.

    If you are on your way to a medical emergency, forget it. If medical marijuana possession is not allowed any grace provision by local law enforcement and lands someone in jail because it is the law, your speeding for a medical emergency (even if it is an ambulance) should likewise be enforced. You and the ambulance or anyone speeding for any reason should likewise be required to abide by ALL traffic laws.

    Oh, but you say there are provisions in how the speeding laws are viewed to allow for things like medical needs. That is my point exactly. We hypocritically focus so much on the letter of the law in things we have been often wrongly been acculturated are bad for society that the spirit of the law gets lost as we fail to have any compassion. Instead we would rather clog our courts and our jails needlessly at great expense to the taxpayer. And if we are not doing it at the expense of the taxpayer but make a profit in the state from all the fines we impose and vehicles we impound then I suggest the motives of law enforcement are questionable.

    We also fail to see the great harm we do to others and to society in general for imposing laws that are far more strict than the questionable harm marijuana imposes on the state. The need for the law is far less than the huge impact enforcing the law has on individuals and the state.
  4. badhand
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    badhand - December 19, 2012 3:26 am
    humpty--You must hate individual freedom. The adults here would like to smoke a joint once in a while. They harm no one.
  5. humpty dumpty
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    humpty dumpty - December 18, 2012 5:53 pm
    no, those are the people we put in charge of enforcing our laws. the ones we voted to have kept in. the laws the majority of the people like. don't commit the crime, you won't do the time.
  6. Report Abuse
    - December 18, 2012 1:18 pm
    Personally....

    I think we should legalize it, (then tax the living heck outta it).

    Possibly then we could keep our streets and sewers and bridges in proper repair....
  7. relaximadoctor
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    relaximadoctor - December 18, 2012 8:28 am
    I agree With bushleagues pot isn't half as bad as the air in some parts of the country. the should make it legal to certain people. i think if you have had incidents selling, thats when you should not have the right but i know plenty of people that smoke before work and still live a normal life and get there job done better than any sober person out there
  8. humpty dumpty
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    humpty dumpty - December 17, 2012 11:33 pm
    this is a perfectly fine way for LE to spend their time and my money.
  9. humpty dumpty
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    humpty dumpty - December 17, 2012 11:31 pm
    no. I pay my taxes and want ALL the laws enforced.
  10. humpty dumpty
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    humpty dumpty - December 17, 2012 4:23 pm
    owning certain types of legally purchased ammunition is illegal in california. possession of my legally purchased handgun is illegal in new york and chicago. and there is an actual amendment for gun ownership. where is the outcry for those laws?
  11. humpty dumpty
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    humpty dumpty - December 16, 2012 2:02 pm
    we don't care what the other 300 million do. just don't do it here. if you don't like our laws, leave. you already tried to vote dope in, didn't work. move on.
  12. greesteve
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    greesteve - December 16, 2012 10:17 am
    Just do not stop,Keep driving it will drive Them nuts and it is a good idea to have more then one car drive to the state and back.Oh and remember do not stop any of the cars just keep driving.
  13. Jeakjr
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    Jeakjr - December 16, 2012 1:13 am
    Agree 100%
  14. ZAR
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    ZAR - December 16, 2012 12:59 am
    South Dakota law is above all, we 700k small minded folks folks know whats best for the other 300 Million Americans, God Bless SD! SIC
  15. tipimakr
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    tipimakr - December 15, 2012 5:11 pm
    Hey! You guys don't like my state? Move on! Move to Colorado or Seattle and smoke your lives away!!! I double dog dare you!
  16. BushLeague
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    BushLeague - December 15, 2012 2:59 pm
    The funny part about MJ is that everyone in this city knows someone that uses MJ. Can you identify them by their blood shot eyes, paranoia, munchies, terrible lives, laziness, and addictive personality? NO because the majority of MJ users are normal people, with normal lives that use the plant in the privacy of their own homes. So how is that hurting you? I would assume that if the situation I presented bothers you then you are outside bars regualry protesting them selling a product that harms someone? And what about the summer nights festival where they sell booze on public streets in front of children?? OH THE HUMANITY!!!! Legalize, tax, and regulate.
  17. BushLeague
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    BushLeague - December 15, 2012 2:53 pm
    Like college people in Laramie don't already get their pot from CO! And newsflash peole, most of the pot that is in this city comes from CO too!! It's always been that way even before it was legally available to medicinal users. Pot is never going away, so why doesn't the Government just quit wasting OUR money and destroying young, non-violent offenders lives by sending them to prison for years where they can make real connections and get into the hard stuff when they get out? Let adults make their own decisions about what they put into their bodies. The majority of people who are against pot are also for less government. Well here is a perfect oppurtunity to allow adults to make a decision for themselves. And finally if you are against pot, I would assume you are against alcohol since it causes so many more deaths in this country than MJ, right????????? (crickets)
  18. BushLeague
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    BushLeague - December 15, 2012 2:47 pm
    Come on Bob look at ALL of the large pot busts in SD and they all ocur along 1-90 and involve vehicles with out of state plates. The SDHP knows that i90 is a malor drug corridor for MJ grown on the West Coast and distributed from Minneapolis to Chicago and even onto Boston. They sit East of RC and wait for drivers with out of state plates to make a simple mistakelike not signalling a lane change and pull them over. Then somehoe they come up with "probable cause" to search the vehicle and voila the HP looks good for taking a large amount of pot off of SD interstates. LOL. At least I'm not the only one who notices the pattern of drug busts along I90 and how odd it is that they always involve out of state drivers. But hey making our community safer one doobie at a time! Jsut legalize it already so these officers can put their time (and our tax money) to better uses.
  19. Bob Smith
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    Bob Smith - December 15, 2012 11:32 am
    The SD hwy patrol will now target cars with Washington and Colorado plates. They will make up some reason to pull them over. Then They will do the bogus sniff test. The officer wants to search your vehicle and you say no, so gives a little sniff and says I smell pot, then they have probable cause to search the car. What a joke SD is. The hwy patrol is already doing this but now it will be even worse.
  20. courtobserver
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    courtobserver - December 15, 2012 7:40 am
    "In Wyoming, law enforcement officers are worried that college students in Laramie, just an hour from Fort Collins, Colo., will make pot runs to their neighboring state."

    I would think law enforcement would prefer that ALL users bought in Colorado. That would save them the time and money wasted on local anti-pot sales enforcement.
  21. MDK123
    Report Abuse
    MDK123 - December 15, 2012 6:50 am
    Wouldn't it be nice if law enforcement would spend less time trying to put non violent people in jail and wasting taxpayer money and instead focus on people walking into schools and shooting kidnergardeners...
  22. DrTrenga
    Report Abuse
    DrTrenga - December 15, 2012 6:28 am
    The real criminals are in South Dakota - using police force to harass people and extort money from them.
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