SPOKANE, Wash. — A decision by the Washington State Court in 2021, known as the 'Blake Decision,' changed Washington state laws dramatically.
The case involved a woman from Spokane who was arrested after officers found a small amount of meth in the pocket of her jeans. The woman claimed the pants came from a friend and had no idea that there were drugs in the pocket.
The case made it all the way to the state Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of the woman, calling Washington's law on simple drug possession unconstitutional, saying the law criminalizes "unknowing" drug possession.
Before the Blake decision, simple drug possession was a felony punishable by up to five years in prison. After the decision, similar convictions were dropped and officers could no longer arrest people for possessing small amounts of drugs.
"Everybody deserves to feel safe in their communities and we're hearing that consistently right now," State Rep. Marcus Riccelli said.
State lawmakers are gearing up for another legislative session and trying to balance how to hold drug users accountable while also helping them recover.
"For almost everyone that's recovered or going through the recovery, relapse is part of that recovery process," said Dan Sigler, Regional Director of Pioneer Human Services.
Spokane Police Chief Craig Meidl says property crimes are up 25 percent compared to this time last year and many criminals are stealing to support their drug habit. Those drugs are also killing people.
"There has been an astonishing 285 percent increase in overdose fatalities within the boundaries of Spokane County," Meidl said.
Spokane County has offered a drug court since the 90s, giving people the opportunity to enter treatment while avoiding a felony on their record. But, with the Blake decision, Meidl says there's no longer a carrot at the end of the stick.
The state legislature returns this January. Wednesday night's town hall is one of many discussions lawmakers are having.
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