Dear Friends and Neighbors,
During a short, hours-long special session today, the Legislature finally took action to make hard drugs like fentanyl, heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamines illegal again.
Because of a state Supreme Court decision (State v. Blake) in 2021, the possession of these drugs was no longer considered a crime. The Legislature passed a stopgap measure shortly thereafter but it expires on July 1, 2023.
I sponsored House Bill 1415 early on in session to add the words “knowingly” to the drug possession statute. It was a very simple, one-word fix that would have kept the felony law intact. However, there are some in Olympia who want to make all drugs legal in this state and have even said so on the House floor.
The compromise bill we voted on today was not everything I would have wanted, but does contain my original solution. It specifically creates a definition of “knowingly possess” and “knowingly uses in a public space” as qualifiers for a gross misdemeanor drug crime. This is important as our solution must combine both consequences and accountability with investments in services and opportunities for assistance for those struggling with substance abuse. I believe the compromise bill, Senate Bill 5536, does this.
Again, while I would have liked more tools for prosecutors and law enforcement, I have spoken to both groups, along with other local elected officials, and their input to me has been near unanimous: support the bill! We must have something on the books to enforce and get people the help they need. We are in a crisis and this bill will give us something as we keep the conversation going and possibly tweak the law in the future.
You can listen to my short radio interview from today here.
You can watch the TVW debate on final passage of this bill here.