Washington to pay for medical treatment to document war on drugs

Panicked lawmakers regrouped in Olympia on Tuesday to pledge $63 million to ban public drug use, strengthen criminal penalties for drug possession, and incorporate public health approaches to addiction into criminal justice. Drugs are back on the agenda as they hold a special session on new spending bills. system.

Party leadership in the Washington state legislature aims to keep the session short with the first-day ballot, saving taxpayers tax money and allowing legislators to get back to a life of *coughing* fundraising. . But Congress’ last attempt to pass a statewide drug policy ended in a chaotic vote on the House floor during the last hours of regular session, so maybe something interesting like that will happen. .

A final attempt to pass Senate Bill 5536 was defeated by a mix of Democrats and Republicans. A week later, Gov. Jay Inslee scheduled a special legislative session to ensure the state enacts new drug possession laws.

In 2021, the state legislature passed an existing statewide stopgap law regulating drug possession, after the state Supreme Court struck down the old felony drug possession law. state versus break. The interim law made drug possession a misdemeanor (90 days in prison) and required law enforcement to undergo at least two medical treatments before making an arrest. The law expires on July 1st.

Without legislation, cities and counties may develop their own drug possession policies, resulting in a patchwork of ordinances. Both legislative leaders and Inslee made arguments in support of statewide policy.

For about three weeks, lawmakers from all four caucuses negotiated over the final draft bill, finally releasing the draft on Monday in preparation for a special session due to begin in the next 24 hours.

Lawmakers added about $20 million to recovery housing, youth services, public defense, and diversions for law enforcement assistance, compared to bills that would normally be defeated in Congress.

If passed, the bill would create two separate felonies: drug possession and public drug use. However, the maximum prison sentence for first and second offenses for either offense is 180 days instead of the standard felony sentence of 364 days. The bill would also limit fines to $1,000 at all times.

If subsequently convicted of either possession or public use, the judge could sentence the person to up to 364 days in prison. Prosecutors cannot double prosecute someone for the same act by charging someone with drug possession and public drug use.

State Senator Manka Dingla (D-Redmond) credited progressives in the House and Senate to the idea of ​​limiting maximum sentences for felonies.

State Senator Yasmine Trudeau (D-Tacoma) acknowledged the improvements in the bill, but said the state still relied on the criminal justice system to bully someone into treatment and that it was ineffective.

“We don’t have the infrastructure to serve everyone who needs it. That’s giving me a big stumbling block,” Trudeau added.

Republicans also won concessions. The bill would remove the ban on people distributing paraphernalia such as needle exchanges, but would allow local governments to continue regulating those practices, Republicans said in an April 29 letter to the governor. asked for Republicans also successfully pushed a provision requiring the Washington State Department of Health to inform the media when considering licensing of opioid treatment providers in the area.

Representatives from all four caucuses advised their colleagues to vote in favor of the compromise during Tuesday’s special session.

Because states set criminal penalty caps for certain crimes, cities and counties can enact their own laws that match state drug possession laws.

In King County and Seattle, members of both legislatures proposed making public drug use a misdemeanor, but both proposed enacting drug possession ordinances. Meanwhile, the Spokane City Council last week passed a resolution making both drug possession and public drug use a felony (up to 364 days in prison). So, if the current proposal passes, Spokane’s maximum penalty would drop to 180 days for the first two offenses, but then return to a maximum of 364 days for each offense thereafter.

Rep. Nicole Macri (D-Seattle) declined to say whether she would support the bill, but admitted it was better than the bill passed on the floor on the last day of the regular session.

“I think progressive organizing has certainly made a difference,” Macri said.

Still, criminal charges don’t help people with substance use disorders or improve public safety, she says.

Dingula argued that the bill reflects Congress’ commitment to a public health approach to drug addiction. Treatment options are available before arrest, after arrest, and before trial. Also, people will have access to treatment services provided through the bill regardless of what stage a patient’s case is in in the process, she said. Even if you are arrested and awaiting indictment, you can still get treatment.

“Let me just say, this is not a bill that everyone can have everything they want. Mr Dingla said.

The Senate will meet first this morning before it is passed by the House, which is expected to meet around noon. stay tuned!

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *