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OLYMPIA — An organization has introduced a proposed ballot initiative that would decriminalize simple drug possession and has started to gather signatures.

Initiative 1922, the Substance Use Disorder Prevention and Recovery Act launched by Commit to Change WA, will need 324,516 valid signatures by July 8 to appear on the November general election ballot.

The initiative would decriminalize personal drug possession and fund expansion of prevention, treatment and recovery services using marijuana tax revenue. The measure would also help people with simple drug possession convictions on their record to clear those convictions.

“Washingtonians have known for a long time that treating drug use as a crime hasn’t worked,” said Keith Blocker, a Tacoma city council member. “We should take this opportunity to expand better, more effective approaches based on proven science, and data about how people recover, rather than continuing the failed practices of the past.”

Under the proposed initiative, funding would include annual distributions of about $141 million to local and tribal organizations across the state for substance use disorder prevention, outreach, treatment and recovery support, as well as research, public health education and law enforcement training.

“This initiative is a major step forward,” said Carmen Pacheco-Jones, founder and executive director of the Spokane Health and Justice Recovery Alliance. “For far too long, my clients have been trying to overcome addiction while simultaneously having to navigate and deal with trauma inflicted by a broken, cruel, and ineffective system. It’s time we give them their lives back and restore hope for their families, their communities, and their future.”

More information on the measure can be found at www.committochangewa.org.