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WA Legislature votes on a Blake fix. Now drug courts have to adapt

caption: The Washington Capitol in Olympia.
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The Washington Capitol in Olympia.

In the hours before Washington’s legislative session ended last month, House Democrats called a vote.

It was for a fix to what’s called “The Blake Decision” — a 2021 state Supreme Court ruling striking down Washington’s felony drug possession law.

In response, legislators put in place a temporary fix that treated knowingly carrying drugs as a misdemeanor. That measure is set to expire July 1.

But as the clock ticked down on the regular session, the votes weren’t there. The House failed to pass the bill, which threw the future of the state’s drug possession law into question — and prompted a number of cities and counties to start passing their own patchwork of regulations.

Today, the Legislature voted on a fix.

The bill passed in the House and Senate raises the penalty for drug possession to a misdemeanor and criminalizes the use of drugs in public.

Prior to the House's passing of the bill, Soundside host Libby Denkmann sat down with Washington State Standard reporter Jerry Cornfield to learn about the potential fix.

Under the new compromise bill, there are some changes to pretrial diversion programs for drug possession and illegal drug use. Now, prosecutors must consent to a defendant’s participation in such programs. And instead of being required, prosecutors are now “strongly encouraged to agree to diversion” in gross misdemeanor cases involving cannabis or illegal prescriptions.

Diversion programs, including drug courts, are also known as “therapeutic" courts, and they’re meant to keep accused people out of the traditional court system.

Their availability varies widely depending on the type of crime and where the charges are filed.

Soundside host Libby Denkmann sat down with Christina Mason, president of the Washington State Association of Drug Court Professionals and Washington Association of Drug Courts, to learn more about how the courts work.

Listen to both interviews above.

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