Chelan County commissioners and Sheriff Mike Morrison are in agreement that a new penalty for illegal drug possession needs to be put in place. 

They agree the offense should be stiffened from a misdemeanor to a gross misdemeanor to establish uniformity with penalties currently in place in Wenatchee and Douglas County.  

Sheriff Morrison says he would raise possession to felony status, although the Supreme Court struck down that level as unconstitutional in 2021. 

"It's not that I want to punish members of our community," said Morrison. "I understand this is addiction. We want to address it. But we need as powerful a tool as possible." 

The county is looking to have a clearly defined drug enforcement code in place after the state legislature failed to agree on a permanent state code this year. 

A stop gap measure passed by lawmakers after the Supreme Court decision two years ago is set to expire on July 1st.  

Governor Inslee has said he'll call a special session of the legislature to come up with a new law, but there's no guarantee the effort will be successful.  

County commissioners and Morrison met Tuesday morning to discuss how to move forward with uncertainty at the state level. 

Morrison said they need to work on a drug enforcement code that's in line with neighboring Douglas County. 

"I think that we should already be working on our own approach to address it within Chelan County, hopefully partnering with Douglas County, so we can be on a uniform platform as well," Morrison said.  

Morrison noted the state Capital Budget passed by the legislature includes $19.6 million to build a new Center for Alcohol and Drug Treatment in Wenatchee.  

The current facility was built in 1954 and is widely known to be outdated and in need of major mechanical, electrical, and plumbing infrastructure upgrades. 

Morrison said a weak drug enforcement code is already letting offenders opt out of treatment they need and would leave any new treatment center underused. 

If the county decides to move forward with a new code, commissioners will need to have a draft code crafted through Chelan County Prosecuting Attorney Robert Sealby's office. They would then need to hold public hearings on the code before continuing forward. The three commissioners would have the final say on any policy change. 

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