Lax drug laws in Snohomish have created frustrating environment for cops
The county is dealing with a growing opioid epidemic and one tool cops don’t have to go after dealers is the ability to arrest people with up to two grams of a controlled substance on them, because the past County Prosecutor Mark Roe wouldn’t prosecute felony drug charges.
“The prosecuting attorney’s office will not prosecute for two grams or less. So in other words, if somebody is arrested, picked up off the street for 1.5 grams of heroin, and that case is taken to the prosecuting attorney’s office, they would not proceed in prosecuting that case unless it met the threshold of at least two grams,” Nehring said.
“So this has created several problems, because on the street now there’s a reputation; drug dealers and people who use these drugs are aware of it and so are pretty intentional about making sure that they’re just under that limit to avoid being arrested and prosecuted.”
As Jason notes, this can create a bad situation. A drug dealer will potentially keep a stash of drugs they’re selling nearby, but only keep up to two grams on them. They know they’ll only be arrested temporarily for the small amount, and be out of jail within 24 hours.
“I’ve heard a lot of frustration from our law enforcement, both at the county and within cities over this, and that they’re spending all this time arresting people knowing they’re not going to get prosecuted,” Nehring said.
For Nehring, mitigating the drug problem requires both offering services as well as taking a punitive approach, which potentially gets lost with the two gram rule.
“The philosophy we’ve been taking with the law enforcement and social worker programs is that we have a carrot and stick approach; the carrot being that we have these services which can be made available to those in need, such as detox, treatment, housing, job training, etc,” he said. “But then we have the stick, and the stick is that if people are going to refuse treatment and continue to commit crimes, they’re going to be put in jail.”
“It’s very important when you look at this policy change that … people who are who are committing crimes — refusing help, refusing treatment — that they know that there is going to be a stick and that they’re not just going to be able to continue living that lifestyle and causing problems for the community.”