MYNORTHWEST NEWS

Inslee: ‘There’s cause for optimism’ in a special session to pass a new drug law

May 2, 2023, 10:03 AM

drug law...

(Photo by JASON REDMOND/AFP via Getty Images)

(Photo by JASON REDMOND/AFP via Getty Images)

With Inslee’s recent announcement that he would not run for reelection, he sat down with Dave Ross and Colleen O’Brien to talk about the possibility of a new drug law in the state, despite the official legislative session ending last week.

When asked why he decided that this would be his last term in office, Inslee said that he had already achieved everything he set to do while in office, have the Seattle Kraken make the NHL playoffs.

Controversial WA drug possession bill fails, laws could be made locally

“I finally realized our state’s highest ambition, we’ve got the Kraken in the playoffs. And so we have, we’ve achieved what I set out to do,” Inslee said jokingly. “And actually, there is some truth. I mean, we have done some really pretty spectacular things in the last decade…There’s only been one three-term governor, and I just feel having a first-term governor instead of a fourth term is the right thing for the state right now.”

The topic turned to the State Legislature’s failure to pass a replacement drug possession law, with the current regulation expiring in two months.

Senate Bill 5536 was introduced to radically change drug possession laws after the Washington state Supreme Court struck down the drug possession law in 2021. The court ruled the law unconstitutional because it did not require proof to charge people with drugs in their possession, including charges against people who were unknowingly possessing illegal substances.

The current state law, which was passed as a stopgap after the Blake decision, expires in July and classifies drug possession as a misdemeanor on the third arrest. There is a maximum sentence of 90 days in jail, up to $1,000 in fines, or both after a third arrest.

The Washington state Legislature failed to pass a remedy to the state’s drug possession law after the House rejected a bill that would have made the possession and use of hard drugs a gross misdemeanor.

“So I meet just about an hour ago with legislative leaders to nail down a date [for a special session.] I think there’s cause for optimism and getting a bill,” Inslee said. “We do not want to forget the two things we need to do. Number one, we have to get additional treatment for drugs. That was the addiction problem that we have, and number two, we do have to have some sanctions, some lever to encourage people to go into treatment, meaning keeping a criminal sanction for those who are not going to treatment. And I think we have reason to believe we can accomplish that this year. ”

Inslee has the ability to call legislators back into session for a special 30-day period and plans on calling lawmakers back sometime in May, saying he might announce something Tuesday afternoon.

“People thought that there was a route to a majority, and it turned out there was not I think this is going to end up to be a bipartisan effort. I think both Democrats and Republicans will ultimately help in passing a version of this,” Inslee said. “And again, I want to get this done as soon as possible so that cities don’t have to adopt their own unique approach. And we have a scattershot approach across the state. So I do want to get this done in May.”

Since the bill did not pass before the end of the legislative session, no drug possession laws will exist statewide, and cities and counties have been creating their own drug possession laws with varying penalties and treatment options.

You can listen to Inslee’s full discussion on the state budget’s, his decision not to run for reelection, and the possibility of a new drug law here:


Listen to Seattle’s Morning News with Dave Ross and Colleen O’Brien weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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