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In Olympia, the state Senate passed Senate Bill 5536 on Friday. It seeks to remedy the messy situation that occurred two years ago when the State Supreme Court, halfway through the 2021 Legislative Session, struck down the state's drug possession laws. 12th District State Senator Brad Hawkins:

The bill, would make the knowing possession of a controlled substance a gross misdemeanor for people aged 21 and up. That’s a step up from the current crime of misdemeanor, but less than the felony penalty that the court struck down.

The bill also creates a pre-trial diversion program for anyone charged with possession of a controlled substance. Under that approach, the defendant would have the charge dismissed if they agree to get treatment for substance use disorder.

Law enforcement officers are also encouraged under the bill to offer referral at the point of arrest, instead of putting the individual in jail and referring that charges be filed.

The bill also would spend about $47 million to provide medication for opioid-use disorder in local and tribal jails, among other things, and to expand crisis-relief centers across the state.

Senate Bill 5536 passed on a bipartisan 28-21 vote. It had its first reading in the House Tuesday, and was referred to the House Community Safety, Justice and Reentry Committee.

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