Bill To Prevent Full Drug Possession Decriminalization Fails In Washington State Legislature

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Peter Khawand Contributor
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A negotiated Washington State Senate bill to prevent full drug possession decriminalization was rejected in the House on Sunday night with a 43-55 vote, according to local outlet KING5.

Senate Bill 5536 was drafted to upgrade drug possession from a misdemeanor on the third arrest to a gross misdemeanor, increasing jail time from a maximum of 90 days to a maximum of 364 days, KING5 reported Monday. The bill would also have encouraged judges to advance recovery efforts, and allow someone convicted of drug possession to vacate their conviction if they undergo a treatment program.

The current law criminalizing drug possession at the state level is set to expire July 1, according to KING5. If a new bill is not passed, then all ability to enforce legal action on drug possession at the state level will be handed to local jurisdictions, the outlet continued. (RELATED: ‘Finding Needles’: Liberal State’s Effort To Decriminalize Drugs Turns Disastrous, Critics Say)

“Sadly, the House Democrats aggressively fought against a bipartisan compromise on the bill to address the use and possession of hard drugs,” Senate Republican Leader John Braun said in a statement. “Instead, they pushed a version of the bill that law enforcement has said is worse than passing no bill at all.”

Democratic state House Speaker Laurie Jinkins said she was surprised to find there were not any Republicans voting for the bill, according to KING5.

“The Republicans can say whatever they want about what their intentions are and things like that,” Jinkins said. “Their vote last night is going to legalize the use of Fentanyl and heroin everywhere in the state of Washington.”

Democratic Washington Gov. Jay Inslee praised the negotiated bill Sunday on Twitter. “Ultimately, treatment is what really works with people. But, [the state legislature] also preserved a criminal sanction to make sure that people understand they have to go into treatment or there is jail time,” he said.

Inslee is working with state leaders to pass new legislation in anticipation of the current law’s impending expiration date, KING5’s Drew Mikkelsen tweeted Tuesday.