Recently, the Washington State Supreme Court determined that our state drug-possession law was unconstitutional (State v. Blake). This has provided us with an opportunity to look at our current drug laws with fresh eyes.
What we can see is that the so-called war on drugs was really a war on people. And although this “war” did nothing to reduce drug use, it certainly struck some direct hits on people with substance-use disorder and their families.
Two things to know about substance-use disorder and our criminal system:
First, what we have been doing isn’t working. Why not? Because convicting someone of a crime does not treat their substance-use disorder. And, no, treatment and support for recovery is not part of the incarceration experience.
Second, this is about our families. When our loved ones go to court, jail or prison, everyone in the family pays. A criminal record creates barriers to nearly everything. People lose jobs and homes. Employers lose their employees. Partners lose their loved ones. Parents lose their children.
Let’s take this opportunity to see substance-use disorder as the public health crisis that it is. And, treat it as such — with treatment, not criminalization.
Noreen Light, Gig Harbor