By Mario Lotmore | Lynnwood Times Staff
Olympia, Wash., March 24, 2021 – Yesterday, Senator Manka Dhingra (D – Seattle), introduced SB 5476 to establish personal use amounts for hard drugs such as heroin, methamphetamine, and cocaine within the state of Washington. The bill is intended to address the State vs. Blake decision on February 25 which ruled that the statute governing simple possession of control substances as unconstitutional.
The bill includes a provision to allow a “forensic navigator” to serve as a care coordinator for persons alleged to be in possession of drugs that are within personal use amount limitations. The forensic navigator must only attempt to contact the individual to offer treatment and recovery services which the person is not required to accept.
The penalties for individuals who knowingly possess more than personal use amounts will range from a gross misdemeanor to a class B felony upon conviction which would result in up to ten years in prison and a $25,000 fine. The severity of the penalty will depend on if the individual is under 21, and if the drug is a controlled or counterfeit substance.
According to the bill, the following will constitute as personal use amounts within the state of Washington if passed:
- Forty user units of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of methadone
- Forty pills, tablets, or capsules of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of oxycodone
- One gram of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of heroin
- One gram or five pills, tablets, or capsules of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of 3,4- 5 methylenedioxyamphetamine or 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamin
- Two grams of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of cocaine
- Two grams of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine
- Forty user units of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD)
- Twelve grams of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of psilocybin or psilocin
The bill also gives the Director of the Washington state Health Care Authority, who is currently Sue Birch, the authority to establish personal use amounts for hard drugs by rule for recreational or nonmedical use – a.k.a. a Washington state Drug Czar.
In addition, the bill establishes a State vs. Blake account in the state treasury to be used by state and local jurisdictions to reimburse those individuals whose sentences have been invalidated because of the Washington state Supreme Court decision. The account is to be funded by monies collected from civil infractions of those persons who are caught opening or consuming counterfeit or control substances in public. The class 3 civil infraction will have a maximum penalty of $125.
Because SB 5476 includes a declaration of emergency, if passed, voters will not be able to use the referendum process to repeal it. The bill would require a simple majority in both chambers and be signed by the governor within five days of its passing to become law and take effect immediately. Sections of the bill that expire July 1, 2022 are replaced with similar sections that take effect on the same day.
The cutoff date to introduce new bills was March 9. However, because SB 5476 contains an appropriation clause that would impact the state’s budget, the bill can bypass the established 2021 session cutoff deadlines.
Senate Bill 5468, which would make it unlawful for any person to “knowingly” possess a controlled substance has stalled in the Law & Justice committee chaired by Senator Jamie Pedersen (Seattle-D). The bipartisan bill is sponsored by Senators Mullet, Hobbs, Braun, Brown, Hawkins, Holy, King, Muzzall, Padden, Rivers, Salomon, Schoesler, Short, Wagoner, Warnick, and Wilson, L.
A new bipartisan bill, SB 5475, was introduced on March 22 to possibly replace SB 5468. The new bill, also declared an emergency, establishes a legislative work group on the possession of controlled substances. The work group will study the impact of the State v. Blake decision and release its findings to committees by June 30, 2022.
SB 5476 would make Washington state the second state in the United States to legalize personal amounts of hard drugs. Last year, Oregon became to the first state to do so with the passing of statewide Measure 110 which took effect February 1, 2021.