Vice Squad
Thursday, February 12, 2004
South Dakota Alcohol Update

Vice Squad updates the ever-fascinating stories surrounding the evolution of alcohol regulation in South Dakota....

(1) You're 17 years old, you have a beer or a beer and a half, you drive home, you get stopped by police, you have a BAC of .02 -- and then you spend a week in jail. Or maybe you have one drag on a marijuana cigarette -- there you go, a week in jail, perhaps. Welcome to the real world of zero tolerance for youths and alcohol and drugs. The feds, however, think that .02 shouldn't cost you more than 48 hours in jail, and they are pressuring states to agree. South Dakota lawmakers are caving in to the mad leniency of the ultra-liberal central government.

(2) The state legislature refused to go along with the request by counties to raise the alcohol tax and earmark half the proceeds for the counties. So now Pennington county (and perhaps others) hope to bring about the reform via a state referendum.

(3) The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is dry, but it also is beset by one of the most severe alcohol abuse problems in the country. There is some current movement on two fronts. First, for economic reasons, the reservation is thinking of lifting its alcohol ban -- a referendum could be scheduled for the next month. Second, if there are no alcohol sales on the reservation, how do residents acquire alcohol? No doubt through a variety of means, but one of the most popular is to travel to the nearby town of Whiteclay, Nebraska. A bill in the Nebraska state legislature aims to hold the line (or at least to slow down its forward momentum) on liquor licenses in Whiteclay. Here's a brief description of the current situation from the linked article, which is an opinion piece in the Yankton (S.D.) Press and Dakotan:

"It's no exaggeration to state that the economy of Whiteclay, Neb., is based almost entirely on an epidemic rate of alcoholism on South Dakota's Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Whiteclay is a village of just 16 people located about a mile from the South Dakota border and from a 15,000-person reservation that bans all alcohol sales. However, there are four liquor stores in Whiteclay that sell, by one estimation, about 11,000 cans of beer per day mostly to residents of the 5,000-square-mile reservation, which has one of the highest alcohol-mortality rates in the country."

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