The war on drugs was launched by President Richard Nixon 50 years ago. Over the years, the casualties have mounted: millions have been arrested, convicted and served time in jails and prisons across America.
Countless lives were stained with criminal records that narrowed opportunities in employment, education, housing and more.
Determined to decriminalize
A coalition of Washington drug reform advocates says they’re determined to have a decriminalization measure on next year’s state ballot.
While the wording of the measure is still being finalized, the group said that “at a minimum,” the measure will propose changes that include:
- The state will stop treating drug use as a crime. The fear of arrest will no longer be a barrier to recovery and engagement.
- “Robust, long-term funding” for a plan informed by the “experiences of people harmed by the war on drugs.”
- A public health approach that “(focuses) on the social determinants of health” for both rural and urban Washington communities.
A new name
Commit to Change WA was formerly known as Treatment First WA, the group that tried to get a decriminalization measure on last year’s ballot. The initiative would’ve made unlawful possession of drugs civil infractions rather than criminal.
People in possession of drugs would’ve been referred to a social services assessment. And the measure would have also expanded outreach and recovery programs.
When the pandemic brought signature-gathering efforts to a halt, the group shifted to pushing legislation advancing its goals, but that measure eventually died in the House.
It isn’t yet known if their new proposal will address past drug convictions and expungements.