Just one day after the state's revised policy on drug possession took effect, Kennewick Police put the new law to work this morning (8/16).

Officers responding to a report of a man slashing a woman's tires in the 300 block of North Johnson located the suspect inside a business in the 3000 block of Clearwater.

The man was taken into custody on an arrest warrant and searched. Officers say they pulled a bag of methamphetamine from his pocket.

Police say the man appeared surprised he was going to jail until he was educated on the new law that makes illegal drug possession a gross misdemeanor.

State lawmakers during a special legislative session made possession of a controlled substance illegal in Washington effective 8/15/23, giving time for cities to modify their municipal codes on drug possession laws. The legislative action comes after the 2021 State v. Blake decision, which ruled drug possession unconstitutional.

While police now have the authority to book drug offenders into jail for carrying small to large quantities of meth, heroin, cocaine and other illegal substances, the new law expands treatment options and pretrial diversion programs for people charged with possession.

In Benton County, offenders often have the ability to seek drug treatment resources via the Benton County Drug Court program. The program lasts a minimum of 15 months for each participant. It includes community supervision, frequent and random substance abuse testing, regular court appearances, family/peer support involvement, and intensive treatment.

A combination of incentives and interventions is used to motivate participants including an alternative to full criminal prosecution. Graduates of the program may participate in the drug court Alumni Group for support and guidance.

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