State lawmakers debate drug possession laws

State lawmakers will hold a hearing in the House of Representatives Monday that will impact the future of drug possession and its consequences in Washington state.

State Sen. Joe Nguyen, D-Seattle, cosponsored Senate Bill 5476, but he says he will vote against the measure in its current form. 

"It was very weird voting against the bill that I originally cosponsored," Nguyen says. 

The bill is in direct response to a state Supreme Court decision that decriminalized the possession of drugs

Nguyen says he believes possession should stay decriminalized in the state, and people should be treated as patients and not criminals.

RELATED: Oregon 1st state to decriminalize possession of hard drugs

Nguyen voted against the bill after it was amended to make possession a gross misdemeanor.

"Everybody understands the people who need it should get treatment. It’s a matter of how do we get them in the door. Some people believe we should treat them like patients and be more therapeutic, and some people think we need to have a stick, and having the criminal code is that stick," says Nguyen.

With only a matter of days left in the legislative session, the state senator says the bill is a top priority.

"We’re essentially tasked with undoing 40 years of drug policy in a month-and-a-half, which is not easy," Nguyen says. 

Meanwhile, cities like Mill Creek are now adding their own laws. The city council passed an ordinance that makes possession of illicit drugs a gross misdemeanor.

Mill Creek Police Chief Jeff Young said the city and police department are committed to the community’s safe and security, and law enforcement will use resources at their disposal to provide necessary help to people experiencing substance abuse.

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