WA lawmakers debate whether to make drug possession a crime again | KNKX

WA lawmakers debate whether to make drug possession a crime again

Apr 20, 2021

Lawmakers and attorneys are still grappling with the so-called Blake decision, a Washington state Supreme Court ruling that struck down the law criminalizing drug possession earlier this year. 

The state Supreme Court case is named after Shannon Blake, a woman found with drugs in her jean pocket but who said the meth did not belong to her. The state Supreme Court ruled people like Blake should not be arrested for simple drug possession.

Now, the Washington state Legislature is debating a bill that would make knowingly possessing a drug a gross misdemeanor while offering opportunities for substance abuse treatment. 

Some, like Lisa Daugaard of the Public Defender Association, think the bill is problematic. 

“Criminalizing drug possession by young people is likely to be applied in a racially skewed way, as it always has been, and it is very unlikely to dissuade any young people from using drugs,” Daugaard said at a Monday hearing about the bill.  

Lawmakers are attempting to reach some kind of agreement on the bill before the legislative session ends on Sunday.

Meanwhile, two organizations, the Public Defender Association and the Civil Survival Project, are pursuing a class action lawsuit, arguing that the potentially thousands of people fined for drug possession under the now voided, old law should no longer have to pay the fees.

Prachi Dave, an attorney with the Public Defender Association, said she has clients that still owe thousands of dollars in court fees.