Washington Proposes One Bill to End the Drug War and Several Bills to Fire It Back Up Again



"The funniest bill comes courtesy of Republican state Senators Mike Padden and Keith Wagoner, who wish to add some intent language (known to Latinate classes as a "mens rea") to the old, unconstitutional law and then just put it back on the books."

I don't understand what is "funny" about this. That's how possession works in the other 49 states in the Union.


So, by making drug crimes a misdemeanor, you shift the burden of incarceration from the State to the counties and cities, who are the government entities that run these jails. Who is going to reimburse our already cash strapped rural counties and cities for having to take on the financial burden of incarcerating drug addicts? Unlike Seattle, most other jurisdictions in this state actually enforce their criminal laws, which means that addicts will likely end up in municipal/county jails. These jails lack resources, services, and outdoor rec facilities. Most of these jails lack any form of in house drug treatment, on staff chemical dependency therapists, or medical professionals. If you think that converting drug possession from a felony to a misdemeanor will help this problem, then you do not know much about the misdemeanor jail system.


@2 geez, I think you're right. Maybe we could save those cash strapped governments some money and just give drug addicts drug treatment without the apparently extremely expensive prison aspects attached...skip the misdemeanor altogether.

You may be thinking 'but then these drug addicts will just be running around free with effective addiction treatment options and no debilitating criminal record!", but you know what, you'd be right again.


@3 Yeah, because decriminalization and offering treatment has worked so well in Seattle. I am sure the DA gets tons of calls from around the country asking how they can make their downtowns look like ours. Some of us, who have jobs, pay taxes, and raise children, actually believe that the City's parks and open spaces should be available to us to use as opposed to housing drug addicts in open-air drug markets. Drug treatment has been available and free since the ACA passed 10 years ago, yet the problem has gotten worse.


So how many decades in prison do pushers of legal opiods like those pushed by Big Pharma go to jail for?

Yeah, that would actually impact the drug war. Going after personal use or even Big MJ won't.

All your MJ is belong to Canadian listed Big MJ. Puff puff.


"rug treatment has been available and free since the ACA passed 10 years "

What? Free? Hahahaha. No. Jesus. You fuckers might be more convincing if when you lied about shit it didn't take five seconds to prove you wrong.


@6 I don't know what you do for a living, but I work in criminal justice. Every defendant I have worked with in the past 10 years gets their treatment by signing up for the ACA, and since they don't make any money, they don't have to pay for the health coverage. But hey, call me a fucker if you think it makes you look any smarter.


@7- glad to hear ACA is helping people actually get treatment. Years ago it was almost impossible for my clients to get any kind of treatment (even AA) in jail and the ones who were out were always getting hauled back into court because they could not pay for court-ordered fragment. A fucking disaster all around.


@8- ACA made a huge impact from day 1. I remember my clients going to jail because they couldn't afford their treatment. The judge would ask them how much their addiction cost, and then use that as evidence that they were willfully failing to pay for treatment. Now, when they don't complete treatment, their excuses are much less compelling. I have also had clients that I thought would never get clean, but drug court actually made a huge difference. The told me that being forced into treatment and having to report weekly to the court saved their lives. They did not want to serve the 2-5 years in prison (depending on their conviction history), so they relented and submitted themselves to the program. I am truly fearful for their recovery now that drug court is closed. For some reason, the people who read the Stranger are really quite good at making opinions without any experience or knowledge of this topic. Apparently, calling something "racist" or swearing at the commenter means that the issue has been resolved without debate.


the big issue here is needles full of drugs just jumping up on unsuspecting innocent bystanders and FORCING them to live a life a squalor and being a junkie.




Complaining about sharing public parks with unsheltered humans who have nowhere else to go is not a compelling argument for putting them all in cages.
Seattle has been arresting people for having addictions outdoors like most other places until pretty recently, so pointing at a half decade long housing crisis and saying 'see, this is because you try to help addicts instead of throwing them in jail and then kinda helping them but also giving them a criminal record' doesn't convince me of much either.
There are more unsheltered people than shelters. Shelters/housing + treatment is cheaper than prisons + treatment over time. As a tax paying person who reproduces the savings should leap out at you.


@11- What leaps out to me is the squalid, unhealthy/unsanitary conditions that the tent campers live in. It's just a matter of time before Seattle suffers a typhoid outbreak (like already happened in LA), Also, I don't agree that we "share" the parks with the tent campers. Once they're at the park, it is theirs- nobody brings their kids to play at an open-air drug market littered with hypodermic needles. Basically, I think that the main point of disagreement between the two of us is that we do not agree on what will motivate an addict to go to and complete treatment. I do not believe that voluntary treatment works. You have to have some form of mandatory compliance. Currently, the only facilities that we have that are capable of delivering mandatory treatment is the prison system.


@11: We seems to have this growing trend of commentators here who claim they work with the homeless, as public defenders, or in some other poverty adjacent career who follow up on that unverifiable career claim by proposing the same failed cop fantasy solutions about how "prisons save lives and incarceration is a public good because we can use violence to force people out of lifestyle crimes," or "the homeless are useless, dirty scum bags we need to incarcerate for their own good. I know because I work with the poor and homeless and they have all thanked me for criminalizing their poverty!"

It's almost as if the same dirty cops and prosecutors who have always trolled this board realize they are now seen as part of the problem, so must pretend to be part in another career field that is part of the solution while proposing the same failed policies that lost them their credibility in the first place.

Here's an idea. If you're now too embarrassed to admit you work within the criminalization industry, perhaps it's time to find a career in one of those harm reduction careers field you pretend to be a part of to sound credible.

As it stands now, you claiming that is where you work while proposing "incarceration as a social good" solutions isn't fooling anyone.


@13- Wow, so your argument is that I am lying about my profession. I have done criminal defense for 15 years. I also have 5 years as a dependency lawyer (where the State takes kids away from parents/guardians). I have never been embarrassed of my job, and no, I am not part of the problem. I have dedicated my entire professional life to helping poor people, many of whom are drug addicts. I am basing my opinion on what I have witnessed, not on what I wish was true. My main point still remains, and it is apparently unchallenged on this board- voluntary drug treatment does not work. I have represented parents who, in order to get their children back, had to complete drug treatment. Guess what, even the prospect of loosing their children forever was not enough motivation to get them through treatment. Look into the parent/child reunification rate for dependency cases- it's abysmally low.

You might find it unbelievable that people who work in the system don't agree with you. That sounds more like a personal issue then a debate on the merits of criminalizing drug use. Come up with a cogent argument about how voluntary drug treatment will solve this problem, and I will listen. But, as it stands, you just ranted without a point.


@15 you are lying. And it’s fucking embarrassing.


@15: As Marshal Kim Jong-Un, supreme leader of North Korea, I take exception with your internet resume.

See how easy that was?

You've not provided proof that criminalization has ever helped with drug addiction. Like a cop, you've provided worthless anecdotes that do nothing more than confirm your narrative bias.

Your imaginary personal anecdotes, in fact even if you had real personal anecdotes do not qualify as anything. Show me the peer reviewed study where incarceration reduced drug use over the past 40 years? With the police and prosecutors responsible for such a huge win in the drug war over the past 40 years, surely you can provide at least one peer reviewed study showing where threats of incarceration and incarceration itself reduced drug use.

A first year defense attorney would know better than to make such an idiotic unconfirmed claim, which is why I'm certain you're either law enforcement, or a law enforcement wanna be.

Now, lets take a look at what the actual peer reviewed studies you were unable to cite have to say about the criminalization of drug us as opposed to your worthless pro incarceration "anecdotes."

As you can see from this graph, spending on the drug war in the US has grown from 1 billion to 20 billion per year over the past 50 years while drug addiction has stayed pretty flat.


Now here's a graph of the spike in incarceration over the those same 50 years driven largely by the failed war on drugs you support through your anecdotal research method:


Wow, all the data seems to contradict your anecdotes as an imaginary attorney for the past 15 years. Who say that one coming!

Now, here's an example (Portugal) where incarceration as treatment failed miserably from 1960-1980's, but full decriminalization of all drugs and replacing the failed anecdotal punishment model with a harm reduction model actually worked:


Switzerland has also followed this harm reduction model with positive results:

Time to give up the failed war on drugs. Outside of perhaps Louisiana, no Prosecutor om the country enjoyed incarcerating black and brown for what he considers their moral failure of being addicted more than Dan Satterberg , but even and crusty 1980's drug warrior like him has admitted it's a lost cause. Time to find a new hobby. I hear arresting people for poverty is the new game in town. You should jump on that badwagon.

You sound like a prosecutors, or police officer who is jones'in over your lost ability to incarcerate people for ingesting plants. Be honest, are you DEA, local cop? I'm going with the latter on this one.

What the drug war has done is sent a lot of people of primarily back and brown people to prison (where drugs are even easier to get) and maid them parias unable to find work or housing with a felone\y once they got out, which drove them back into drug addiction. warped the Constitution beyond recognition which you know doubt already know as a faux defense attorney and lead to a huge spike in deaths as safer drugs like heroin have been replaced by far more dangerous drugs like fentanyl


Never respond by phone with autocomplete.

I will at least clean up that last paragraph:

What the drug war has done is send a lot of primarily black and brown people to prison (where drugs are even easier to get) and made them pariahs unable to find work or housing with a felony conviction once they got out. This, of course, drove them back into drug addiction, warped the Constitution beyond recognition which, which as a faux defense attorney you know and created a huge spike in deaths as safer drugs like heroin were replaced by far more dangerous drugs like fentanyl.


@18 Sorry to respond so late, but I make myself busy on sunny Saturdays. Anyways, like I said before, your cynicism about my profession is on you. I thought personal narratives based upon lived experience are supposed to be important nowadays. However, you want to focus on objective facts, which is what I prefer as well.

You point to Portugal as an example of how Washington should handle drug addiction. First, before comparing one country's policies and laws to another, or a state in this instance, you have to also account for the similarities and differences between the two. For example, I could point to Canada and say, "see, high gun ownership rates do not pose a public safety threat." I definitely do not believe that is true for the U.S., and the cultural/economic/political differences between our countries probably contain the answers as to why. The three major differences between Washington and Portugal that stood out to me are: 1) Portugal is a sovereign nation, 2) Portugal has a federal income tax rate of 45% for what would be the median income in Seattle, and 3) Portugal has a guaranteed minimum income and better welfare benefits. I was not able to determine the rate of drug use, homelessness, and incarceration prior to the law change and compare it to Washington's. But, each and every major difference between the two makes an apples to apples comparison more difficult.

When it comes to Portugal decriminalizing drug possession, it is important to note that this change in policy did not happen in a vacuum. The change in drug laws was also accompanied by a massive increase in welfare and health benefits, and the creation of a civil deterrence court with the authority to fine, impose community service, and recommend drug treatment. What I take away from that is, in order for Washington to realize some of the benefits from a Portugal style policy rewrite, we would also have to address welfare and health care as part of the same policy package. Simply decriminalizing without any of the accompanying changes to other benefits programs is not going to realize the same results. Also, since we are talking about state drug law, it would require that the entire state legislature agree to come together and tackle this issue as a whole, and not compartmentally. This one singular problem, a unified and state wide response to address this problem, is the death knell for adopting Portugal style reform. We can't even agree to pass affirmative action, fully fund public education, house the thousands of homeless, or agree to a state income tax. If all we get from an attempt to be like Portugal is decriminalization, then it would be foolish to expect the same results.

If Washington were to agree to tackle the issue as part of a wholesale policy change that includes all the welfare/social benefits changes that Portugal included in their policies, then I am on board for the experiment. I do my part- I have never voted for a Republican. However, I am a pragmatist. I look at what actually is occurring, what can likely be done, and try to pick the best options out of what is feasible. I do not expect Washington to enact a guaranteed minimum income or a massive overhaul of the welfare system. Rather, Washington, based upon its prior history, will only partially commit to change, and select the cheapest option to address the problem. Of the feasible options, I believe mandatory drug treatment is the best, and as it stands now, the prison system is the only entity that we have capable of delivering it. There can be tweaks to the law, such as expanding the practice of DOSA (drug offender sentencing alternative) and drug courts, as well as policies that eliminate conviction history for successful completion of drug treatment. I will say this again, and I stand by it, decriminalization and voluntary treatment is not a comprehensive plan, and it will not work.


Yes, there are important distinction between Portugal and the US and some of those distinctions involve the three factors you mentioned, but please remember, every advantage you mentioned about Portugal was true from 1960 to the mid 1980's when Portugal was waging a failed war on drugs that filled their prisons, increased crime, increased the death rate associated with drug addiction as it has in the US since we started the war on drugs.

The one variable here is decriminalization. The other factors you listed are controls (true both before and after drugs were decriminalized). That does not mean a better safety net in the US would not help and I fully support defunding our failed criminal system to pay for a better social safety net, but that is not the cause of the change in Portugal before and after drugs were decriminalized.

the real defining difference between the US and Portugal around criminalization is our failed criminal system, which only reinforces why America more than Portugal and other European countries needs to remove the toxic law enforcement element from any meaningful solution.

Your response did not address the abysmal failure of our criminal system to address effective treat, or improve outcomes for addiction over the past 50 years. You did not address how the failed war on drugs has jeopardized the civil rights of all US citizens regardless of drug use by turning our domestic police force into a militarily armed occupying force that has eroded our civil rights beyond repair with nothing to show for the trillions they have wasted but largest (and one of the most toxic) prison system in the world operating within a police state. There is no more embarrassing ambassador of American drug policy than our toxic criminal system along with those who support and maintain it. America has become the symbol for everyone but the Philippines, who simply shoot suspected drug users on site, of the true cost of a failed war on drug war. Of course, stopping drug use was never the intention, so no one should be surprised when it does not achieve that. I’m surprised to find someone who tells me they are a defense attorney defending prison as a road to rehabilitation. It’s only anecdotal, from asset forfeiture abuse to the wide spread corruption the drug war has caused within law enforcement, most of the defense attorneys I have met believe the Bill of Rights is a net positive and the war on drugs has not been very good for any of our rights, so you stand out on the other side of that debate.

Yes, Portugal (and Switzerland) both have a small law enforcement component to their successful decriminalization systems, but they are minor players who answer to the experts, which in these countries are the health authorities. If there is a defining feature of American law enforcement working with healthcare and social workers in America it’s that police feel they are always best qualified to dominate the system with a "more incarceration first" because they have guns and prisons, which they believe gives them a PhD in subject they are involved in, to include drugs.

Both in Portugal and Switzerland there is no “stop drugs or go to jail” component like the one you recommend. in fact, those who will not stop are given free drug treatments by the State until they decide to quit. The police are there to deal with violent crime should it arise, but that's minimal since they have access to drugs and the system is built around healthcare workers.

Could you imagine a system like that operating in American? Could you imagine someone with an ego like Dan Satterberg admitting a doctor knows more about addiction, or literally anything else than he does? Look at the harmful vomit he regularly spreads about sex work in the face of literally every peer reviewed studies and expert that harm reduction decriminalization supported by groups from the ACLU, to Amnesty International, US AIDS and The Lancet who recommend the exact opposite of what he is doing. How does someone like that operate within a harm reduction system when their entire career is based on harm escalation?

Do you really think those same people in law enforcement who are terminally oblivious to the obvious failures of their own policies are capable of listening to anyone in the room who doesn’t also have a gun and immunity from accountability?

Portugal, Switzerland, and frankly no developed country would come within 1000 miles of our failed and toxic criminal system that is the embarrassment of the developed world. As far as American prisons being a component of recovery, that only makes sense if you believe recovery is more effective when it includes state mandated expoitation, isolation, humiliation and violence that define our prison system.

Most drug treatment experts I have spoken with tell me those traits are the exact opposite of what effective drug treatment looks like, but perhaps law enforcement understand drug addiction better than treatment experts the same way a high school graduate police officer understands Fentanyl better than an anesthesiologist because that later does not have a gun, or qualified immunity as proof they’re a subject matter expert.