House fails to pass Blake fix, Rep. Jim Walsh issues statement

With just a few hours before the conclusion of the 2023 session, the controversial “Blake fix,” Senate Bill 5536, failed to pass the House with a vote of 43-55.

19th District Rep. Jim Walsh, R-Aberdeen, offered the following statement on the bill:

“This is a rare thing. The House Speaker doesn’t often bring a bill to the floor for a vote if she isn’t sure it will pass.

“SB 5536 was supposed to be a ‘fix’ to the Washington State Supreme Court’s Blake decision, which effectively decriminalized possession of hard drugs like heroin, methamphetamine, and fentanyl. That decision is a big reason that fentanyl has become such a problem in this state. But SB 5536 didn’t actually fix the problem.

“The measure would have extended many of the same bad policies that have caused the problems we face in Washington: needles in parks, drug pipes and foil squares in gutters, and humans passed out on sidewalks. This is the drug crisis we face. And we need to address it directly, with a combination of effective prosecution of crimes and compassion for addicts.

“If SB 5536 had reinstated a ‘clean’ gross misdemeanor status to the knowing possession and use of drugs like heroin, methamphetamine, and fentanyl, it might have been effective. Instead, it muddied public policy. It required statewide legalization of drug paraphernalia and equipment. It would house people trying to get clean and sober next to people still actively using drugs. And it would have exposed children to environments in which drugs like fentanyl are being used.

“That’s too high a price to pay for ‘re-criminalizing’ drug possession. Too much compromise and not enough real remedy.

“Supporters of the measure argued that, if it didn’t pass, local governments would be left unable to enforce civil order. That’s not true. In Cowlitz County, when some of the same bad ideas included in SB 5536 were tried—and failed—the county and cities were able to fix that failure with good local ordinances and decisions. The failure of SB 5536 allows local governments all around Washington to do as Cowlitz County did.

“Law enforcement agencies in my district asked for drug policy that has teeth. SB 5536 didn’t. That’s why it failed.”

The 2023 session concluded today, Sunday, April 23.


Washington State House Republican Communications