Victor Mendez is a recovery coach in Omak. He helps people who have been abusing drugs to stop using them.
He uses his own story to connect with people.
“I got hooked on drugs when I was 13, and I spent the next 32 years of my life going in and out of prison,” Mendez said.
Part of the time he spent in prison in California was for having drugs.
“A dime bag of heroin sent me to prison for two years,” Mendez said.
Since the state Supreme Court of Washington ruled that the state’s felony drug possession law was unconstitutional in 2021, drug laws are being looked at more closely in Olympia.
In response, lawmakers made it a misdemeanor to be in possession of drugs like cocaine and heroin, and they now have to refer people to treatment before they can be charged.
This year, that temporary fix runs out, so lawmakers and Gov. Jay Inslee are looking for a long-term solution.
Proposals range from changing a law that makes it a crime to have drugs to make drugs not a crime.
“I don’t think total decriminalization is the right way to go,” Inslee told KIRO 7.
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“The reason is that I think we need to encourage and help people get treatment so they can get off these chemicals that are ruining their lives.”
The governor says that the threat of jail time makes people more likely to get help.
“We want to be treated, that’s the end goal. “Putting people in jail for 20 years is not the answer. The answer is to get them to stop using drugs,” said Inslee.
Republican leaders want a law that is supported by both parties. One way to do this could be to make drug possession a gross misdemeanor, which means that people will be punished if they refuse treatment more than once.
“I think there’s a lot of agreement that we’re not trying to start over with the war on drugs. Instead, we’re trying to get people into treatment and keep them in treatment,” said Sen. John Braun. “But we can’t do that outside of the criminal justice system” (R-Minority Leader).
Mendez says that the most important thing is making sure that people get help as he did in the end.
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“Someone who has a problem with drugs doesn’t need jail,” he said.