Padden statement on Senate’s passage of Senate Bill 5536

The Senate last night voted 28-21 to pass Senate Bill 5536, which aims to provide a long-term solution to the state’s drug laws after the state Supreme Court overturned the state’s drug-possession law in 2021. The bill declares that possession of fentanyl, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine would be charged as a gross misdemeanor.

Sen. Mike Padden, the ranking Republican on the Senate Law and Justice Committee, issued this statement after the Senate’s approval of SB 5536:

“This bill does not go far enough to provide the leverage needed to help people get off dangerous drugs. It’s disappointing that the Senate did not restore making possession of fentanyl and other hard drugs a felony, as it was before the Supreme Court upended our state’s drug laws in the Blake decision two years ago. The threat of a longer sentence is a needed motivation for drug offenders to undergo treatment. We need a balance between accountability and treatment that this legislation doesn’t achieve.

“In recent years, our state has endured a startling increase in drug-overdose deaths, and two-thirds of these deaths involve fentanyl. Law enforcement in our state has pointed out the importance of tougher penalties for drug possession in order to compel drug users to get the treatment they need to hopefully become clean. I’m concerned that we are missing the chance to create a true ‘carrot-and-stick’ approach to combat drug use in Washington.

“The current law does not work. While Senate Bill 5536 is an improvement over the status quo, it does not go far enough to make meaningful and needed changes to our state’s drug laws.”

Padden, R-Spokane Valley, serves the 4th Legislative District.

SB 5536 now goes to the House of Representatives for further consideration.