A new Washington state law makes drug possession a misdemeanor, after the court had ruled Washington's felony drug statute was unconstitutional.
The Washington State Supreme Court declared the previous statute unconstitutional because it was a "strict liability" statute, that didn't require prosecutors to prove that a defendant knowingly had the drugs. That left the possession of small amounts of drugs, including heroin, cocaine and meth, legal under state law.
“It moves the system from responding to possession as a felony to focusing on the behavioral health response, which is a much more appropriate and successful way to address the needs that underlie drug abuse,” the governor said, upon signing the new bill.
The Washington law requires police to divert a defendant's first two offenses to treatment before the case even made it to a prosecutor, and if a defendant's case ever reached a prosecutor, the prosecutor would be able to divert as well. Regional “recovery navigator” teams will be set up to help provide “continual, rapid, and widespread access to a comprehensive continuum of care” to “all persons with substance abuse disorder.”