205 W 5th Ave
Ellensburg, WA 98926-2887
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Kittitas (pronounced 'KITT-i-tass') County is located in central Washington
State. It spans from the lush forested Cascade Mountains to the upper Yakima River Valley plains and
the Columbia River.
Kittitas County, WA -
Sheriff Myers released the following statement today regarding the impact of SB5476, Washington State's new drug law as of May, 2021:
Today I’d like to speak to our state’s new drug laws and pose some questions, as portions of these laws will clash with our community’s values and expectations.
Drugs are a terrible problem for individuals and communities. They fuel property crime and violent crime and all too often end in death.
In May, lawmakers passed SB5476. It reduced the crime of drug possession—for heroin, meth and other hard drugs—from a felony to a misdemeanor. It also prohibits law enforcement from arresting anyone for possessing drugs on the first two offenses: a ‘three-strike’ rule for drugs. On the first two ‘strikes’, law enforcement must instead refer violators to voluntary treatment. In other words, we hand them a form, encourage them to get help, and send them on their way.
The question: What should a deputy do for a 10 or 12-year old with an ounce of Heroin, Fentanyl, Meth or Cocaine? We have no authority under this law to take that child into custody to take them to resources or even to their home and family. We can’t even encourage the option of treatment as an alternative to detention until a child is caught with drugs for the third time. How many times will a kid use dangerous drugs before getting caught three times? Which of those times will be the one that pushes them into addiction or overdose?
I have minimal concern about this process as it relates to adults, even young adults, who’ve reached a level of decision-making maturity. And it is certainly not our desire or intention to put children in jail. We just need the tools to effectively intervene in the pathway leading a kid from drugs to crime and to overdose—to modify the behavior before it turns into addiction or death.
We hope the new referral process is effective, and it may be—with adults. But what about the 12-year old? Those who wrote and signed this law displayed little regard for our youth when they prohibited law enforcement from detaining and protecting a child who has no interest in drug treatment. This is the kind of unforeseen, unintended consequence that results from making laws without input from the people who enforce them.
We will continue to do all we can for the safety of the community and for the drug-affected members in it. We ask for your help and understanding as we work in new ways and under new restrictions. And we ask you to talk to your lawmakers about how the laws they pass meet or fall short of your expectations—and ask them to fix what’s broken.
Kittitas County Sheriff
Kittitas County, from the Cascades to the Columbia, and online at http://www.co.kittitas.wa.us
Inspector Chris Whitsett509-962-7615
Kittitas County has a total area of 2,333 square miles. The highest point in the county is Mount Daniel at 7,959 feet above sea level.