On April 24, the Washington State Senate, led by Democrats, approved a new treatment-oriented approach to possession of hard drugs that reduces the crime from felony to misdemeanor. Concurring with the more lenient House version, and over the objections of Republicans, the Senate vote largely decriminalized possession of the most dangerous controlled substances on our streets.
Governor Inslee will approve the measure, which may lead to full decriminalization in two years.
The Legislature was forced to act. On Feb. 25, the state Supreme Court ruled in State v. Blake that Washington’s felony drug possession law was unconstitutional in not requiring intent to possess the substance. The ruling effectively decriminalized heroin, methamphetamine and other potentially lethal drugs.
The Supreme Court’s scrutiny is part of a national readjustment of social attitudes toward hard drugs and marijuana. The War on Drugs, which combined strong messaging with police enforcement and prison sentences, is increasingly out of favor.
It likely turned millions away from drug experimentation, including school kids who consistently heard the message “Just Say No.” Yet, millions more did not heed the message, then or since.