Addictions, Drug & Alcohol Institute

KUOW Interview with Dr. Caleb Banta-Green on the WA Legislature’s Failure to Pass SB 5536 (Drug Possession Law)

Caleb Banta-Green
Caleb Banta-Green, PhD, MPH, MSW

Last weekend, the Washington State legislature failed to pass SB 5536, a replacement for the state’s drug possession law, which will time out in July.

If things are left as they are, and a special legislative session isn’t called to try to get the bill passed, not only will drug possession be legal in the state in July, but the bill’s package of support for people with substance use disorders will also be left hanging.

In this interview with KUOW, ADAI Acting Professor Caleb Banta-Green, PhD, MPH, MSW talks about the implications of all this on people who use drugs in Washington State.

The bill would have created 39 community health hubs across the state, with a goal of making services easier for people who need them to get. “That’s it,” Dr. Banta-Green says, “Trying to engage in the addiction treatment system or healthcare system takes days or weeks […] But that just doesn’t apply for a person in the midst of addiction. The idea is: something for everybody, every day.”

Though the headlines about the bill largely focused on the criminal issues related to drug possession, Dr. Banta-Green says, “[T]here’s this instinct, this reaction to force people into treatment, and to use the criminal legal system to do that. The evidence base does not support that. And we really need to try something different.”

Listen in to hear what Dr. Banta-Green, who testified in front of the Washington legislature several times about the bill, has to say about what this means for the individuals at the heart of it all – those with substance use disorders who are addicted to drugs like fentanyl, scared of dying, and unsure where to go to get help.

For more information about the community health hubs and the issues with mandated treatment, see: Ask an Expert: Is Mandating Treatment Necessary or Helpful?

Find the interview on KUOW here.