‘These aren’t my pants’: WA Supreme Court rules charging drug possession unconstitutional

Possession of drugs is no longer a felony in Washington State, after the state Supreme Court found the VUCSA statute unconstitutional on Feb. 25.

The ruling in the case, State v. Blake, decriminalizes the possession of controlled substances. Five justices said in the ruling the statute was unconstitutional because it doesn’t require prosecutors to prove that someone knowingly or intentionally possessed the drugs.

“The Supreme Court’s ruling is a welcome nail in the drug war’s coffin,” said Jack Range, an attorney with Jefferson Associated Counsel. “No evidence-based model addressing our public health addiction crisis includes hunting down, humiliating, jailing, and making second class citizens out of those afflicted. People who struggle with drug use need help, not empty moralization and prison time.”

Jefferson County deputy prosecuting attorney Chris Ashcraft announced shortly after the ruling on Thursday that the Prosecutor’s Office will be dismissing all active cases in which the individual has been charged with possession of drugs.

“We are trying to grasp the full impact of this case and will do everything we are required to do to protect your clients’ rights, but as it stands right now, we do not have a full grasp on the implications of this case and it may take several weeks/months for us to figure all of those out,” wrote Ashcraft in an email to defense attorneys on Thursday.

Police departments across the state have begun to announce they will no longer be arresting individuals for drug possession. Simple drug possession “is no longer an arrestable offense,” the Seattle Police Department said in a public statement last week. Officers will no longer detain nor arrest individuals for having drugs.

The Port Townsend Police Department and Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office have not yet announced what they plan to do following last week’s ruling.

The ruling only applies to the possession of drugs. Other state laws, such as those against selling or driving under the influence of drugs, are unaffected by the ruling. However, a bill to decriminalize all drugs, made it past its first legislative hurdle last month after the House Public Safety Committee voted 7–6 to approve the Pathways to Recovery Act, HB 1499, which would remove penalties for “personal use” amounts of illegal substances and expand outreach and recovery services.

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