Special legislative session on drug issues leaves Washingtonians with a lot of questions

Special legislative session on drug issues leaves Washingtonians with a lot of questions

Gov. Jay Inslee has called a special session to begin on May 16 to tackle the issue of drugs in Washington. The legislature’s failure to take action during the regular session means that all drugs – even hard drugs like fentanyl, methamphetamines and heroin – will become legal in the state on July 1. This special legislative session seeks to avoid that. 

The legislators, however, have no plan to consider, despite Gov.Inslee’s previous statements that a proposal is a prerequisite for calling a special session. That leaves Washingtonians wondering – what exactly are legislators coming together to consider?

Details of the plan are incredibly important to this issue which directly contributes to the health and safety of people around the state. And it’s the details that prevented anything from being passed during the regular 105-day session that adjounred last month. The bill then lost Republican support by preempting local governments from passing common-sense rules like making drug possession an arrestable defense add more reasons why they opposed?

Democrats have control of both chambers of the legislature – and the governorship – so they could have passed something without Republicans, but couldn’t because a significant extremist wing wants full drug legalization. Because of that, House Speaker Jinkins will need to court Republican votes to get anything meaningful passed. Perhaps other Democrats will join Democrat Senators Mullet and Lovick, who have said Republicans have good ideas on this issue and need to be heard. Yet, it appears that Republicans are being excluded instead. 

If the Governor and Democrat leaders are serious about bringing legislators together to find a solution, they need to address the preemption issue as well as harm reduction, especially for juveniles. “Harm reduction” is a euphemistic term for providing drugs, paraphernalia and “safe” places to take drugs rather than providing any sort of treatment, using taxpayer dollars to perpetuate the problem rather than solving it. Republicans see both as deal-breakers and will likely steer clear of any deal that includes either of these issues as should any legislator who takes the issue seriously. What are Democrat leaders doing to court critical bipartisan support? 

It looks like Republicans will be excluded from the negotiation process, which makes it likely that a proposal will move forward with those deal-breakers included.  At that point, it would be in the best interests of Republicans – and the state – to walk away from any deal offered. While far from ideal, it would be better to have a patchwork of local rules and regulations rather than a terrible law being imposed on the entire state that would override local cities and counties. Leaving this issue to local communities may result in a confusing situation where each county and some cities will have different rules on hard drugs and penalties but, if state lawmakers in the majority party won’t get serious about solutions, what choice do we have? 

Current state policy leaves people suffering in a cycle of addiction with little hope they will find their way out. It is creating a domino effect of homelessness and crime. Instead of finding ways to break the cycle, Democrats are only strengthening it. 

The far left is expected to offer little more than platitudes during the upcoming special session, but there is still the opportunity for meaningful solutions. It will require true bipartisanship where both parties come together, discuss and negotiate in good faith, and come up with a solution that will work for everyone in Washington. 

Will they succeed? We will have the answer to that question over the next two weeks.

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