Washington Eyes Drug Decriminalization Bill After Oregon Success


On November 4, Treatment First Washington, a group behind a drug decriminalization effort, said it intends to announce a lead sponsor for the proposal by December, before the legislative session beginning in January.

After watching Oregon become the first state to remove criminal penalties for small amounts of drugs, the logical choice is to push forward for a similar bill in Washington.

“We in Washington State are encouraged by the results of Oregon having approved a measure, Measure 110, which makes Oregon the first state to treat drug possession cases as a public health issue and not a crime,” said Christina Blocker, the group’s communications director. “We’re excited about that work. We are excited about what that means.”

The group plans to draft an initiative that would remove criminal penalties for simple drug possession and use cannabis tax to fund treatment programs.Treatment First Washington would have put a bill on the November ballot, but earlier efforts were thwarted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new plan is to push forward a bill through the Washington State Legislature instead. The Treatment and Recovery Act would decriminalize drugs in a similar manner to Oregon’s Measure 110.

Peter Zuckerman is the campaign manager for Oregon’s Measure 110. “Arresting people for drugs is simply inhumane. People in the Northwest understand this,” Zuckerman said. “Permanent criminal records can stop people from getting jobs, from getting housing, from getting professional licenses. It can stop them from going to school and getting student loans.”

A December poll suggested the ballot initiative would’ve had strong support if it would have qualified for the November election. Sixty-nine percent of people surveyed in the poll said “yes” or “probably yes,” when asked if they would vote for a drug decriminalization initiative.

Proponents are hoping to pass a law that would likely take effect in 2023, if enacted by state legislators.


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