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caption: Tommy Le uses THC oil to add keif, a concentrated form of cannabis, to the outside of a rolled joint on Wednesday, July 18, 2018, at House of Cultivar in Seattle.
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Tommy Le uses THC oil to add keif, a concentrated form of cannabis, to the outside of a rolled joint on Wednesday, July 18, 2018, at House of Cultivar in Seattle.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Measure to decriminalize all drugs rolls out in Washington state

Supporters say Initiative 1922, to decriminalize drugs, would help people with substance use disorders.

Today drug-reform advocates, doctors, and politicians announced a proposed ballot measure to remove the penalties for possessing drugs of any kind in Washington.

Supporters say the war on drugs needs to end, and that they want Initiative-1922 on a statewide ballot this year. It's proposed by a coalition called Commit to Change WA.

Everett Maroon, a drug treatment professional in Walla Walla and one of the supporters of decriminalization, said people jailed for drug possession often do not have the government support to get back on track.

"Criminalization has not worked," Maroon said. "It's time for us to walk away from that as a solution."

Maroon said with the current model of criminalizing possession of controlled substances, such as cocaine, heroin, and magic mushrooms, people with substance use disorders have a very narrow road for recovery.

"All we do is arrest the person, arrest their progress, and then subject them to a very high risk of overdose or overdose death when they are released," he said.

I-1922 would decriminalize the possession of drugs in Washington state, including opiates, psychedelics, stimulants, and other controlled substances. However, police could still seize the drugs.

The proposed ballot measure would dedicate $141 million in state funding each year to substance use treatment and prevention.

That money would come from cannabis taxes the state is already receiving.

Carmen Pacheco-Jones, who was formerly incarcerated, is also among the bill's supporters. Pacheco-Jones has since founded the Health and Justice Recovery Alliance.

"The old system of arrest, criminalization, jail, release, relapse, fail" needs to end, she said. "We see the continued cycles of recidivism, not only harming our individuals that are impacted but also our communities and we need comprehensive, positive change."

The sponsors have until July 8 to collect almost 325,000 valid signatures of registered Washington voters to qualify for a spot on the statewide ballot in November.

This ballot initiative would not legalize drugs. Legalizing is a different framework that sets up guidelines for sales and manufacturing. There is a separate ballot measure this year that would legalize psilocybin mushrooms.