Last week, during a one-day special session, the Washington State Legislature passed a compromise bill, Senate Bill 5536. The bill is in response to the Washington State Supreme Court’s Blake decision and the need for updates to the drug possession law. Sponsored by Senator June Robinson (D-38-Everett), the bill received overwhelming support and was signed by Governor Jay Inslee May 16.
Drug possession is now classified as a gross misdemeanor, with a maximum six-month confinement for the first two convictions and a fine capped at $1,000. The bill also establishes pre-trial diversion into treatment and mandates early conviction vacation for those who have completed treatment or substantially complied with recovery programs for six months. The bill pre-empts local governments from imposing stricter penalties, ensuring a uniform gross misdemeanor standard throughout the state.
“This is a win-win,” said Mark Johnson, WR V.P. of Policy & Government Affairs. “Individuals suffering from substance use disorders are often preyed upon by organized retail crime rings who use them to commit retail thefts and other criminal activities. SB 5536 strikes a careful balance between treatment and accountability to break the drug use cycle, leading to safer communities and protecting retail employees and their customers.”