KTTH OPINION

Rantz: After pushing to decriminalize, Bob Ferguson says he wants to tackle drug OD crisis

Mar 31, 2024, 5:55 PM | Updated: 9:10 pm

Photo: Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson speaks during a press conference at his office on F...

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson speaks during a press conference at his office on Feb. 9, 2017 in Seattle. (Photo by Stephen Brashear, Getty Images)

(Photo by Stephen Brashear, Getty Images)

The Bob Ferguson drug crisis plan is a real head scratcher. He was one of the first and loudest voices encouraging drug decriminalization, which created the Washington opioid crisis and, more specifically, the Seattle fentanyl epidemic. Now he says wants to tackle it?

Ferguson’s major pitch is that his “crisis response plan includes more resources to combat drug trafficking and improved treatment options for individuals.” He says it will be funded through a settlement with drug companies over the opioid crisis. The current Washington attorney general also says he’ll fund “increase funding for multijurisdictional drug task forces,” but just months ago he reportedly tried to partially defund those task forces.

The Bob Ferguson campaign for governor calls his plan “bold,” though few honest people would call it that. It’s either unspecific or picking up on plans that already exist. It’s also not something that should be trusted since it conflicts with his own record. Why would we call an arsonist to put out the fire he started?

Isn’t the Bob Ferguson drug crisis plan addressing the crisis he helped start?

The Bob Ferguson drug plan acknowledges the scourge of fentanyl that’s flooding our streets. It’s killing more people, particularly the homeless, than ever in our history. Will he ever acknowledge he’s one reason why we’ve seen a historic rise in fatal overdoses? Not at all.

After the far-left Washington State Supreme Court declared the state’s felony drug possession law unconstitutional, Ferguson urged Democrats to take this as an opportunity to decriminalize drugs.

“I’m hoping the next step is for Washington to change course and move away from a war on drugs that has utterly failed and try a new approach,” he said at the time. “And that new approach is to eliminate the criminal penalties associated with possessing a non-commercial amount of drugs. And I’m hopeful that the state legislature will take that bold but necessary step.”

At the time, Ferguson predicted if Democrats adopted his idea, we’d see nothing but success. “But I suspect in five years, 10, 15 years, other state officials will be supportive of what I think will happen here in Washington,” Ferguson said. We didn’t have to wait long to find out what would happen across Washington state.

More from Jason Rantz: Seattle will waste federal funds tackling drug crisis it created

What happened when Washington adopted Bob Ferguson’s drug decriminalization idea?

Democrats took Ferguson’s advice by decriminalizing drugs. The results were shocking.

The state witnessed historic fatal overdoses, with King County bearing the brunt. Led by numbers out of Seattle, the county hit a record high 1,337 fatal drug overdoses, forcing local leaders to pour tens of millions of dollars more into addressing the consequences. We haven’t spent much on treatment; instead, the state funded so-called “harm reduction” strategies that Ferguson supports. Harm reduction is meant to mitigate the consequences of illicit substance abuse.

In practice, however, it’s about handing out drug paraphernalia like clean needles, fentanyl pipes and “booty bumping kits.” Ironically, one harm reduction tool that actually works is electronic cigarettes, but Ferguson decided smoking vapor is more unsafe than smoking fentanyl, meth, and heroin.

The attorney general was silent throughout the drug crisis he helped start, including its impact on homelessness. It became so bad that Democrats had to walk back the Bob Ferguson drug decriminalization plan entirely, and return to making illicit substance use illegal again (albeit since considerably less harsh that it needs to be). Throughout the debate on how to walk back his own plan, Ferguson was hands off. He didn’t want the public to remember he was one the first and loudest voices pushing the plan that killed thousands. Only after the public was clearly in favor of rescinding the drug decriminalization plan did Ferguson’s office (not Ferguson himself) come out with a supportive statement.

“Attorney General Ferguson supports the Legislature coming together to craft a bipartisan solution that holds individuals accountable for selling drugs, engaging in public drug use, and refusing court-ordered treatment while dramatically expanding our public health response to individuals suffering substance use disorder,” the spokesperson said.

Jason Rantz content: On crime, Bob Ferguson campaign made its first massive blunder

Bob Ferguson says he supports funding, so why did he reportedly aim to partially defund drug task forces?

Ferguson’s office helped sue opioid manufacturers, bringing funds back to Washington state as part of a settlement. Now, the Bob Ferguson campaign is begging for the credit, even though he hasn’t been held accountable for his role int he crisis. Again, he hopes the voters doesn’t look too deep into his past.

Though the funding has already been earmarked, it allows him to tell voters that he still favors treatment over jail, which is a position residents mostly support. Though he promises to “increase funding for multijurisdictional drug task forces,” KING 5 reported Ferguson actually tried to cut funding.

The Washington State Department of Commerce allocates federal funding from the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant. Nearly $3 million in funding helps fuel the operating budgets of 16 active task forces. But KING 5 reported Ferguson “wants some of the grant money to be spent on election workers’ security.” Ferguson, like other Democrats, used “MAGA supporters” as boogeymen to claim widespread threats against election workers. It helps them divert attention from the crises they caused and focus on Donald Trump, who still triggers progressive Washington voters.

“Fentanyl is destroying communities. And as a drug task force commander, having to have to try to advocate for funding in the middle of that is counterintuitive,” Tobin Meyer, chief criminal deputy with the Skagit County Sheriff’s Office said at the time. “It boggles my mind at this point.”

More from Jason Rantz: Bob Ferguson’s political crusade against cops keeps failing

Isn’t the flip-flopping mind boggling?

Ferguson has always been laser-focused on becoming governor. He’s used the Washington State Office of the Attorney General as a political arm of his campaign, staking positions that he could run on once Gov. Jay Inslee finally called it quits. But he never thought the public’s mind would change so quickly.

Whether or not Ferguson believes anything he says is up for debate. He flip-flops on a dime. But he likely didn’t see a second tectonic shift happening so soon after the first one. Silent about the violence, Ferguson, like almost all white Democrats, leaned into the Black Lives Matter movement. It earned them some social currency as they played literal White Knight. At the time, the public was on their side to defund police and decriminalize drugs.

Just three years on, public sentiment has flipped, and so has Ferguson. He’s no bastion of principle; he’s a power-hungry opportunist, ready to say or do anything for a shot at higher office. That makes him dangerous. Already misusing his power in the attorney general’s office, the thought of him as governor is a chilling prospect. He poses a stark and direct threat to the very fabric of our state’s governance.

Listen to The Jason Rantz Show on weekday afternoons from 3-6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here. Follow Jason on X, formerly known as TwitterInstagram and Facebook.

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Rantz: After pushing to decriminalize, Bob Ferguson says he wants to tackle drug OD crisis