SD group says decriminalizing marijuana could reduce the prison - KSFY News - Sioux Falls, SD News, Weather, Sports

SD group says decriminalizing marijuana could reduce the prison population

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Smoking marijuana is no longer against the law, at least not in Washington state.

Washington voters recently approved the recreational use of the drug.

Some think legalizing pot in South Dakota might be a solution for decreasing the state's exploding prison population.

Yesterday we showed you how governor Daugaard's criminal justice initiative is working to control the state's incarceration rates and spending.

Thursday, we spoke with a member of a group who says South Dakota could learn a lesson from Washington state as a solution.

Emmit Reistroffer is a member of the South Dakota group Families First. He says we could learn from other states that have legalized marijuana.

"The laws were quite lengthy. These laws in charge those state governments with oversight, with developing a licensing system so there's nothing to hide. There's a lot to learn obviously with what's going on," Reistroffer said.

South Dakota Families First is dedicated to keeping non-violent criminals with their families and out of prison.

"I think we know the laws we have had, haven't been working very well if we're trying to get rid of marijuana, so that's why other states are talking about regulation. That's why we want to talk about marijuana in South Dakota and how we should handle it," Reistroffer said.

Reistroffer said for those against legalizing pot, there are other solutions to keeping people out of prison.

"Make it a ticket-able offense so that the person's life isn't ruined. They don't have a record or a conviction on the record. They can go on with their life and continue to be productive citizens without burdening the system and eventually going to jail," Reistroffer said.

Governor Daugaard is taking a look at how much the prison population is costing taxpayers. Resitroffer said Washington and Colorado may have found the answer.

"Culturally, South Dakota doesn't want to ruin people's lives over it. We really need to find that balance. I think decriminalization is a good start because right now we're putting way too much money and resources into locking people up for marijuana," Reistroffer said.

We looked at how many people are incarcerated for non-violent drug offenses.

As of October 31st, nearly 500 men and women or more than 13-percent of the prison population is in jail for drug possession as a primary offense.

Those numbers are higher than any other criminal offense, violent or non-violent.


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