LEWIS COUNTY COMMISSION TAKES TESTIMONY ON PROPOSED DRUG LAW

CHEHALIS – As part of the Lewis County Commissioners’ meeting Tuesday, a public hearing was held to discuss the possible felony or misdemeanor drug ordinances within the unincorporated areas of the county that have been proposed following the striking down of existing drug legislation in the February 25 Blake v. State of Washington decision. The State Supreme Court decision was based on the language of the existing law, as explained by Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer: “Blake, for those that don’t remember, struck down fifty years of drug convictions because the statute did not include the word ‘knowingly’, so both the felony and the non-felony version [of the proposed ordinance] would include the word ‘knowingly.’” Meyer would add that in Blake, “the State Supreme Court determined that people who did not know they were possessing of a controlled substance could be convicted for possessing a controlled substance.” The proposed ordinance would give the county the ability to once again prosecute drug convictions. Although the ordinance only applies in unincorporated Lewis County, thus leaving out the cities and other incorporated communities, County Sheriff Rob Snaza said he does expect the county’s municipalities to adopt similar resolutions: “All of them have agreed that whatever the commissioner has passed, based on Prosecutor [Jonathan] Meyer and Mr. [Eric] Eisenberg, will more than likely adopt those, so that they will enforce them the same. I’m confident that the [municipalities] of Morton, Mossyrock, Toledo, Winlock, and Pe Ell will adopt the same ordinances that are passed here. I have full confidence in that.” There was also time for public testimony, some of it impassioned. In some cases it was supportive of the proposed measure. One resident said, “Four days ago, I celebrated fourteen years clean from hard drugs. One of the things that helped me get through that was accountability, and one of the things that I think in a lot of communities we’re slacking on is holding people accountable for their actions.” The resident who gave that testimonial also spoke of the stories told to her by her daughter, a student at a local high school: “…she also runs across a lot of kids whose parents are actively using and actively dealing. It… it’s just crazy, and I can’t stress enough that we need to enforce whatever drug laws that we possibly can, to hold people accountable.” Another resident disagreed and gave a different side to the story: “I, myself, am in recovery, and I can state very matter-of-factly that criminalizing it – making it a felony, making it a misdemeanor, whichever way you want to look at it – doesn’t help the suffering addict.” In the end, no decision was taken on the matter. Simultaneously, the state legislature is considering some type of action on the effects of the Blake case.

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