Legislators to return to State Capitol to address state’s drug possession law.
Senator Brad Hawkins issued the following statement related to Governor Inslee calling a special session of the Washington State Legislature, beginning May 16th:
“I agree with Governor Inslee’s decision to call a special session to finalize Washington State’s drug possession law. This is one of the most important issues currently before our state, and it’s disappointing that lawmakers did not finalize a solution during our recent 105-day session.
“On March 3, with several weeks remaining in the regular session, the Senate approved Senate Bill 5536 to replace our state’s temporary drug possession law. I supported that bipartisan bill because I felt it struck the right balance between having a helping hand of compassion and a heavier hand of accountability in response to drug possession.
“Too often in politics, there is a lot of blame to go around. As such, I’m always hesitant to wade into those waters, but in this case, I believe a faction of very progressive House Democrats refused to support the Senate’s bipartisan compromise, eventually leaving the legislature with nothing at the end of session.
“Having no statewide framework related to drug possession would be disastrous for cities and counties across Washington who would then need to implement a patchwork of their own local drug possession regulations. It would also likely keep thousands of people struggling with substance abuse from getting the help they need.
“Our state must achieve something in the special session, and my hope is the final outcome is much like the bipartisan compromise senators approved several weeks ago.”
On March 3rd, the Washington State Senate approved Senate Bill 5536 sponsored by Sen. June Robinson, D-Everett. It represented the first major step this legislative session to address a temporary drug possession law that sunsets this July. In 2021, the State Supreme Court’s Blake Decision struck down Washington’s felony drug possession statute as unconstitutional. Legislators approved a temporary measure later that year to classify drug possession as a misdemeanor while working toward a more comprehensive solution.
The proposal that was approved by a Senate vote of 28 to 21 includes a classification of possession offenses, steps to pretrial diversion, prosecution, and resources. Hawkins voted in favor of the proposal. The House of Representatives later adjusted the bill through a party-line vote on April 11th. House and Senate negotiators attempted to develop a “Conference Committee” solution, but that vote failed in the House on April 23rd, the final day of session, by a vote of 43 “yes” to 55 “no.”