This past Friday, state Sen. Phil Fortunato voted in favor of the Senate’s proposal to mostly fix the so-called Blake Decision drug possession fiasco.
In 2021, the state Supreme Court issued its ruling on a 2016 case over the arrest of Shannon Blake for possession of drugs. Blake contended she did not know there were controlled substances in the pair of borrowed pants she was wearing at the time. The high court said the felony drug possession statute was unconstitutional as it violated due process protections.
Working late into Friday night, senators reached a compromise to address the temporary drug possession measure set to expire later this year. Fortunato argues that the ruling and pro-legalization advocacy efforts has wreaked havoc on the legal system, vacating hundreds of felony drug convictions that released offenders back on the streets.
Senate Bill 5536 would implement various classifications for drug possession sentencing, pretrial diversion programs, requirements for deferring prosecutions and resources to treat offenders.
Fortunato offered this statement on the bill now heading to the House of Representatives for consideration:
“I do not think that this proposal went far enough to fix the rampant drug problems we are seeing, but this solution is better than nothing. It is 50% ‘carrot,’ with voluntary treatment, and 50% ‘stick,’ with jail time to force treatment. Considering where state law is currently and the abuses that are happening, this proposal will hopefully start to have an impact by providing some accountability for people suffering from addiction who are also engaging in criminal activity to feed their habit.
“We need to show compassion, but we also need to have ways to discourage the behavior. I’ve contended since we started to see the skyrocketing thefts, drug overdoses and property crimes that it is not compassionate to let people live in tents on city streets or overdose in parks. We need stronger drug laws that force people into treatment. While the legislative majority seemingly has a philosophical opposition to any sort of accountability, this compromise is a good starting point.”