WASHINGTON – In response to the Washington State Supreme Court declaring the state’s felony drug possession law unconstitutional, Theshia Naidoo, Managing Director of the Department of Legal Affairs, released the following statement:
“Yesterday, the Washington Supreme Court struck down the state’s felony drug possession statute, declaring it unconstitutional. This provides the Legislature a unique opportunity to completely rethink the state’s approach to drug possession.
Though the Court’s decision is based on narrow grounds and legislators could decide to fix the constitutional defects of the drug possession statute, the decision underscores the need for comprehensive drug policy reform that centers health and compassion by highlighting the harshness of the war on drugs and criminalizing drug possession, especially in communities of color. Read in its full context, the Court is issuing a clarion call for bold legislative action
This decision is a perfect dovetail to the drug decriminalization bill moving through the legislature, which has already passed out of committee. We urge legislators to immediately consider this bill and the benefits it would bring, including expanded health, harm reduction and recovery services, rather than re-enacting the harmful criminal penalties of the past that have resulted in extreme racial disparities, record drug overdoses, and countless lives ruined.
Oregon has already shown us in the most recent election that decriminalization is not only politically viable, but incredibly popular—as Measure 110, which decriminalized possession of small amounts of drugs for personal use and provided increased access to services—passed by a 17 point margin. Washington should follow suit and provide people with the services they need, rather than the burden of a criminal record they are forced to carry throughout their lives.”