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Washington Governor Calls Special Session To Prevent Drug Decriminalization From Taking Effect

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“Cities and counties are eager to see a statewide policy that balances accountability and treatment, and I believe we can produce a bipartisan bill that does just that.”

By Brett Davis, The Center Square

Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee (D) announced Tuesday afternoon that he will call a special legislative session to begin on May 16 to pass a new drug possession law, something lawmakers failed to do during the 105-day regular session that ended on April 23.

“My office and I have been meeting with legislators from all four caucuses and I am very optimistic about reaching an agreement that can pass both chambers,” Inslee said in a news release. “Cities and counties are eager to see a statewide policy that balances accountability and treatment, and I believe we can produce a bipartisan bill that does just that. Details are still being negotiated, but caucus leaders share the desire to pass a bill. I believe that starting the clock on May 16 will put us on a path to getting the job done this month.”

Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia, does not share Inslee’s optimistic appraisal of the situation.

“The governor had indicated he would not call a special session until legislative leaders reached an agreement that is worth bringing in front of each chamber,” the Senate minority leader said in his own news release. “To be clear, we’re not to that point yet, although there have been productive bipartisan discussions over the past week. In that sense, his announcement today was unexpected.”

Braun continued, “All along, Republicans have insisted on a new drug-possession policy that truly works for the stakeholders – law enforcement, the criminal-justice system, and local governments. They need more leverage to save lives, lift people out of the despair that goes with being addicted to drugs like fentanyl, and also reclaim our streets and sidewalks. That’s still the right path for the upcoming special session. We must do better.”

After the state Supreme Court’s 2021 State v. Blake ruling struck down Washington’s felony drug possession law as unconstitutional, lawmakers crafted a temporary “Blake fix,” which made drug possession a misdemeanor. The provisions of that stopgap legislation expire on July 1.

This story was first published by The Center Square.

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