A campaign to decriminalize drugs and expand substance misuse treatment in Washington State will no longer pursue an effort to place the policy change on the November ballot. Instead, the group announced on Wednesday that it will be pressing the legislature to enact the reform during next year.
Because the coronavirus pandemic already impacted signature gathering for the initiative—and because activists are anticipating a second-wave outbreak that could further jeopardize the campaign—Treatment First WA said it will “redirect our energy to securing passage of the Treatment and Recovery Act as a bill introduced by Washington State Legislators in the 2021 session, which begins January 11.”
“Although we’re discontinuing efforts to place the Treatment and Recovery Act on the November 2020 general election ballot as Initiative 1715, we will continue working to replace arrests and incarceration for drug use with treatment, recovery, and education,” the group, which is backed by ACLU of Washington, wrote in an email blast to supporters.
The initiative would have made it so people who police encounter possessing illicit drugs would be referred to a mandatory service assessment, with the intent being to have them screened for a substance use disorder within 72 hours of the citation.