SEATTLE — After voting down a invoice final month to maintain drug possession unlawful and enhance companies for folks fighting dependancy, Washington lawmakers are coming into a particular legislative session to discover a compromise earlier than a short lived legislation preserving the possession of small quantities of medication outlawed expires.
If a brand new legislation will not be handed, Washington would develop into the second state within the U.S., after Oregon, to decriminalize possession of personal-use quantities of medication, whilst broadly obtainable and low-cost fentanyl worsens an opioid disaster outlined by open drug use and hovering overdose deaths.
Right here’s what to know in regards to the disaster.
HOW WE GOT HERE
The Washington Supreme Courtroom in 2021 struck down a state legislation making drug possession a felony. It was unconstitutional, the court docket stated, as a result of it didn’t require prosecutors to show that somebody knowingly had the medication. Washington was the one state within the nation with out that requirement.
In response, lawmakers handed a short lived measure giving themselves two years to construct a long-term coverage.
WHAT THE LAW SAYS NOW
That momentary measure made intentional drug possession a misdemeanor and required police to refer offenders to analysis or therapy for his or her first two offenses. There was no apparent approach, nevertheless, for officers to trace what number of instances somebody had been referred, and availability of therapy remained insufficient.
WHEN DOES IT EXPIRE?
July 1, 2023.
WHAT HAPPENED IN THIS YEAR’S SESSION
As this 12 months’s session ended late final month, Senate Invoice 5536 – billed as a compromise – was voted down within the Democratic-controlled Home, 55-43.
WHAT THAT BILL SAID
The legislation would have accomplished the next:
– Elevated potential penalties for drug possession, making it a gross misdemeanor punishable by as much as a 12 months in jail, moderately than a misdemeanor punishable by as much as 90 days.
– Eradicated the requirement that police refer an individual for therapy moderately than prosecution for the primary two offenses. Officers may then arrest somebody for a primary offense, whereas additionally encouraging police and prosecutors to divert instances.
– Allowed judges to impose jail time for individuals who refuse therapy or repeatedly fail to conform.
– Made clear that public well being employees couldn’t be prosecuted for giving out drug paraphernalia, resembling clear glass tubes for smoking fentanyl.
– Included funding for drug disaster facilities; a pilot program for entry to wash drug paraphernalia and different companies; and extra entry to withdrawal remedy in jails and prisons.
WHAT’S THE CURRENT CONFLICT?
Many liberal Democrats have objected to criminalizing medication, whereas conservative Democrats and Republicans insisted on a menace of jail to supply incentive for folks to enter therapy.
Democrat and Republican lawmakers agree on the necessity to improve companies, however Republicans felt the invoice didn’t present sufficient accountability for offenders and would preempt native bans on drug paraphernalia, amongst different issues.
WHAT ARE LAWMAKERS DOING?
The particular legislative session starting Tuesday provides lawmakers one other likelihood to succeed in an settlement.
If a brand new measure will not be handed earlier than the momentary drug legislation expires, cities and counties could be free to undertake their very own approaches, making a patchwork of legal guidelines that might undermine efforts to deal with dependancy as a public well being difficulty.
Copyright © 2023 The Washington Occasions, LLC.