New Washington Illegal Drug Law Change Already Showing Results
After years of failed experimentation, the commonsense drug law changes just enacted a week ago is already showing positive results.
Benton County Sherrif's Office Utilizes New Drug Law
You may not remember but in 2021, the Washington State Legislature struck down a pre-existing law that had made drug possession a felony. The law was found unconstitutional because the law did not make prosecutors of drug defendants have to prove that they 'knowingly" possessed the drugs to be charged and Washington State was the only state with that stipulation in the law. The problem was that the law was struck down without a new one in place causing a legal vacuum for illegal drugs to be legal basically anywhere in public.
New Washington State Illegal Drug Laws Passed
You don't have to imagine the kinds of trouble the law change caused for Washington because the residents started seeing it almost immediately. A problem that was bad before was suddenly amplified by the combination of the law change and an unexpected pandemic. Suddenly there were homeless drug addicts getting high in public on the streets in almost every town and city in Washington State. Eventually, after 2 years the Washington State Legislature passed Senate Bill 5536 to fix the problem. The law went into effect in August and already we have examples of it starting to work.
Washington State Bill 5536: What's in it?
The first line of Bill 5536 says exactly why the bill was passed saying "AN ACT Relating to (the) justice system and behavioral health responses for persons experiencing circumstances that involve controlled substances, counterfeit substances, legend drugs, and drug paraphernalia". I think that is legalese for "we screwed up". The bill finally makes it a gross misdemeanor for possession of controlled substances in Washington State. It sets a maximum confinement time of six months for the first two convictions and fines are capped at $1,000. Not only does the law allow police to do their job but it also creates a system for a pre-trial diversion program to get people into treatment.
Benton County Sheriff's Use Law Change to Find Illegal Drugs
Just yesterday, the Benton County Sheriff's Office made an arrest and managed to get drugs off local streets that would have not been possible last June. The Sheriff's Office got reports of an occupied vehicle on the road sitting at a stop sign and went to make contact with the driver. The officer found the man sitting in the car and then admitted to having illegal drugs on him. The man was arrested and police called for a search warrant to claim the illegal drugs. That arrest would not have been possible just a few short weeks ago. The Benton County Sheriff's Office wants the message to get out loud and clear: "Effective August 15, 2023, knowingly possessing illegal drugs and/ or using illegal drugs in a public place is again ILLEGAL in Washington State."