Wilson: Passing drug law is important, but special session is absurd

Overtime session demonstrates majority’s ‘attitude problem’ on public safety

Sen. Jeff Wilson, R-Longview, released the following statement regarding the Legislature’s upcoming special session, set for Tuesday to finish the job on a bill restoring penalties for possession of hard drugs. Lawmakers were unable to reach agreement during their regular legislative session, which ended April 23. Washington’s current drug law, adopted two years ago, downgraded felony possession of heroin, fentanyl and other hard drugs to a barely enforceable misdemeanor, and set an expiration date of June 30. Without action by the Legislature, Washington will have no law against possession, forcing counties and cities to pass their own anti-drug ordinances.

“I’m glad we have a deal to make the law enforceable, but there’s no excuse for this special session,” Wilson said. “The Legislature created this deadline two years ago and we’ve known about it all along. We had 105 days to deal with it during our regular legislative session. But politics got in the way. Any enforceable penalty was too much for our Democratic colleagues in the House, and the bill failed on the session’s final day.

“This has never been about sending drug addicts to prison. It’s about giving prosecutors the tools they need to get addicts into treatment programs, by allowing them to threaten jail time. By establishing possession as a gross misdemeanor and laying out a diversion program for those caught with drugs, this deal recognizes that law enforcement must be part of any solution. The explosion in overdose deaths since we relaxed the law should weigh heavily on all our consciences, and I will be voting yes.

“But dealing with this in a special session is ridiculous. Running out the clock in the House was inexcusable. Forcing cities and counties to pass their own drug laws would be irresponsible. Why on Earth is this controversial? Why didn’t we pass this in January? The real issue here is an attitude problem about public safety from current legislative leadership, and this needs to end.”