ACLU of Washington statement supporting SURSAC’s recommendations on drug decriminalization, safe supply and expanding access to recovery services

News Release: 
Wednesday, January 11, 2023
SEATTLE – Today, the Substance Use Recovery Services Advisory Committee (SURSAC) released its plan to the legislature that includes a number of public-health centered recommendations, including decriminalization of drug possession and the creation of a safe supply work group.

In 2021, the Washington State Supreme Court struck down the statute that made possession of a controlled substance a felony. This ruling in State v. Blake meant there was no state law that made simple possession of drugs a crime until the Legislature recriminalized it in 2021. SURSAC, led by the Washington State Health Care Authority, was born out of this 2021 legislation that tasked it with establishing a substance use recovery services plan.

The ACLU of Washington enthusiastically supports the recommendations in SURSAC’s plan and more broadly, prioritizing drug policy reform and treating substance use disorder as a public health issue.

Mark Cooke, policy director for ACLU-WA's Campaign for Smart Justice, had this reaction:

“Too many people are dying in Washington, especially people of color and the young, from substance use disorder. We cannot go back to the failed policies of the War on Drugs and further criminalize a public health problem, saddling people with lifelong criminal records that make it more difficult to access services, housing or jobs. SURSAC’s recommendations tackle these issues by treating them first and foremost as a public health crisis and not a criminal justice issue. We need to replace the failed policies of the past with proven approaches that address substance use disorder and save lives through prevention, outreach and recovery services.”

A full link to the SURSAC plan can be found here.