The Times - Serving Waitsburg, Dayton and the Touchet Valley

By Michele Smith
The Times 

Local Prosecuting Attorney drafts ordinance to replace overthrown possession law

Public hearing set for proposed local ordinance making simple possession of controlled substance a misdemeanor


DAYTON—Columbia County Prosecuting Attorney Dale Slack has wasted no time heading off a headache for local law enforcement due to the State Supreme Court ruling Washington State v. Blake on February 25, 2021.

As reported in the March 18 edition of the Times, the ruling struck down as unconstitutional Washington’s strict liability drug possession statute, RCW 69.50.4013, which made possession of a controlled substance a felony. The Court’s ruling said the state law was unconstitutional because it included criminalizing passive, unknowing conduct in violation of due process protections.

Because there is now no current law, said Slack, the hands of law enforcement and court officials are tied when it comes to making drug arrests and getting people into treatment. Slack presented the Board of County Commissioners with a draft version of a local ordinance, which would replace the state statute, making possession of a controlled substance a gross misdemeanor rather than a felony.

Slack read the proposed ordinance, RCW 36.32.120(7), limiting the charge to a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor.

“This is not anything too creative or weird. The short story is this is a replacement for RCW 60.50.4013,” he told the BOCC on Monday of last week.

When adopted, the “Columbia County Controlled Substance Code” prohibits the possession of controlled substances, prohibits the possession of marijuana by persons under the age of 21, and provides penalties for such crimes, including a maximum fine of $5,000 and up to 364 days in the county jail.

A first conviction carries with it a penalty of no less than $150. Second, or subsequent convictions carry a penalty of no less than $500.

Also, where a sentence has been suspended pending substance abuse or mental health treatment, the Court may assess costs of $250 per year to cover the cost of court monitoring for compliance.

This new chapter to the Columbia County Code will apply to all unincorporated and incorporated portions of the county unless the municipalities elect to opt-out.

A public hearing has been set for April 12 at 9 a.m. in the BOCC chambers. Attendees can access the Zoom meeting agenda by contacting Virginia Schmidt at 382-4542.


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