Noem speech presents startling meth picture

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Gov. Kristi Noem presented her first State of the State speech Tuesday and included a startling picture of the methamphetamine crisis plaguing our state.

We all hear about meth in South Dakota, and some of us even hear about how it has grown into a statewide crisis. But not many heard the statistics Noem presented.

In 2011, there were 402 meth arrests in South Dakota. Those arrests led to the seizure of approximately 4,300 grams of meth. Look ahead seven years to 2018. We have gone from 402 arrests to 3,366 – and that doesn’t even include December 2018. The amount of meth seized in these arrests has increased from approximately 4,300 grams to nearly 40,000 grams – a nearly tenfold increase.

Some of the increase is likely due to increased law enforcement, but no one can argue that meth abuse hasn’t grown.

And in our opinion, no one can say that meth use is a “victimless” crime. People are dying. Families and communities in South Dakota are being destroyed.

We’re alarmed, saddened and angered to hear about the rapid growth in meth abuse and the damage caused by it. We can add “fearful” as we consider the possibility of that growth rate continuing.

We talk with local law enforcement and hear awful stories. Our criminal justice system – from law enforcement officers and courts to jails and treatment facilities – are strained by meth.

This problem should define the 2019 legislative session and the first years of the Noem administration. 

We need a full-effort attack on the problem, using resources to turn back the tide. Noem is right in saying it will take strong efforts in prevention, education, enforcement and treatment.

We’re eager to hear the debate in the Legislature as lawmakers work to establish and fund the best methods to win our state’s war against meth.