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Washington State Close To Decriminalizing Hard Drugs, Including Fentanyl

Graham Perdue
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Washington state’s Democratic leaders are in a panic over the looming deadline that may see the state decriminalize all hard drugs — including the deadly fentanyl.

Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee called the legislature back to the capitol for a special session to tackle the potential crisis. The move would be enacted despite the soaring number of fentanyl overdose deaths sweeping the country.

In a Tuesday statement, Inslee declared that “cities and counties are eager to see a statewide policy that balances accountability and treatment, and I believe we can produce a bipartisan bill that does just that.”


Lawmakers face this predicament because of a misfire by the state Supreme Court in 2021. The justices incredibly struck down a Washington law making drug possession a felony on the grounds that it was too harsh. 

In response, the state legislature passed a stopgap measure that made drug possession a misdemeanor statewide for two years, but that ordinance is set to expire in coming weeks. 

With all the uncertainty over whether Washington lawmakers will intervene and prevent the state from becoming the second to legalize hard drugs, cities are lining up to take the matter into their own hands. Even far left Seattle is set to take action to avoid blanket decriminalization.

On Thursday, City Attorney Ann Davison was joined by two city council members proposing an ordinance to charge people with a misdemeanor if they publicly use drugs within the city limits.


The clock is ticking. If Washington legislators do not take new action before July 1, the state gets the dubious honor of being the second in the nation to decriminalize possession of even the most dangerous drugs.

Oregon was the first, and by most accounts it has been a complete disaster. Proponents, including nearly 60% of the state’s voters in some polls, believed decriminalization would result in lowering addiction rates and overdoses.

That has proven demonstrably false. Overdose deaths skyrocketed by 33% in Oregon after the move compared to 15% nationwide. There were also supposed to be avenues opened for drug treatment for users, but users are not lining up to accept.

Less than 1% of those eligible for treatment, a grand total of 136 people, received any help. Police wrote 2,576 tickets for drug possession that could be waived simply by calling a help hotline, but how did that work out?

Only 116 of those receiving tickets made the call. The huge majority of the rest simply paid the small fine as there was no threat of incarceration or court-ordered treatment.