OLYMPIA — A bill to amend Washington’s drug possession laws and expand access to pretrial treatment programs passed the Senate floor Friday.
Senate Bill 5536, sponsored by Sen. June Robinson (D-Everett), permanently addresses the state Supreme Court’s 2021 State v. Blake ruling, which struck down the statute that made possession of controlled substances a class C felony and removed any criminal penalties for possession. In response that same year, the Legislature established a simple misdemeanor penalty for knowing possession, but it is set to expire July 1, 2023.
“By working to address the root causes of substance use disorder and provide necessary support and resources to people in need, we can promote long-term recovery, reduce the likelihood of future criminal behavior and ultimately build healthier communities,” Robinson said.
The bill classifies knowing possession of a controlled or counterfeit controlled substance as a gross misdemeanor, ensures people charged with the offenses have access to pretrial diversion programs and provides funding for treatment programs and services. A person can also have a conviction vacated after successfully completing treatment.
The legislation now heads to the House. Follow its progress here.