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By Jana Hill
Mill Creek Beacon Editor 

The best revenge | Editor's Note

Giving people what they deserve


Last updated 4/16/2021 at 10:56am

What do people deserve when considering the aspects of drug policy?

Revenge is for the weak.

I cannot offer a claim that revenge has never crossed my mind. I understand the math of justice. When a wrong has occurred, we crave the right. We want life to be simple, where everyone gets "what they deserve."

At this point in Mill Creek's history, a complicated set of problems around drug possession is giving lawmakers a staredown. Asking them what they are made of. Asking them what is deserved for the public, and what someone deserves if they are carrying a dangerous drug.

In State v. Blake, the Washington State Supreme Court law shifted the burden of proof for drug possession when a woman with a bag of meth in her coin pocket claimed the "not my pants" defense, and it was accepted by the courts. The change sent government entities scrambling to resentence those now legally "innocent" of possession, and replace the enforcement-gap the decision left.

Shannon Blake said she did not know the drugs were in her pocket, using the "not my pants" defense. Now any new law must be recast to include the word "knowingly" and lawmakers are rethinking a complicated set of problems around drug possession; deciding what will work. What rights the wrong, when it comes to drug possession.

A Pandora's box of problems has been opened at a time when we are all craving stability, dizzied by pandemics, protests, upheaval, and left in a heap of exhaustion.

As lawmakers and the public impacted by drug-war logic stop to consider the best path forward, I offer you the memory of a friend.

My closest friend in my young adult years was frantic, or he was functional. He was brilliant, loyal and creative; or he was mean, negligent and dangerous. His duality did not happen at once. The two realities were dependent on what his bloodstream carried: the wrong thing or the right thing. I saw the ugliness of his addiction, made uglier by the fact that I saw the beauty of who he was separate from it.

His beauty was at times life-saving. A family friend was going through a serious trauma. She was listening to him play the guitar, and they chatted. It was a talk that sounded lighthearted. Then she said something a little too dark, hinting at despair. He noticed she was wearing a handmade friendship bracelet, and asked if she'd made it. Then he insisted she bring him one the following week.

"Be here," he said. "I really need that bracelet."

Drugs are not simple, so here's a curveball: when stoned he was functional. Medicinal marijuana was an accident for him. It caused him to trip into straight As, flash bright smiles, and follow through on both work and guitar practice. He was "in the room" emotionally and able to connect. He was kind, engaging, and brilliant.

I also saw his other side. The side that put dents in the door of my home when he was drunk. The side that avoided my calls when drug-addicted and self-destructive friends were around. Some drugs become the friend. The people come along with it. The culture around that person, once set, is the guiding force for what will come next.

I would love to tell you that my friend lived it out, got help, and set his life straight. I'd like to tell you his artistic outlet and flare for humor colored the remainder of his life. That he lived to get gray hair, and be the light heart in the room, at the right moment to see something despairing and hand someone else an anchor. Because that is what good people do for the world. They are in it, making it brighter.

Instead he died on Admiralty Way in 1993. He fell out of the window of his own truck with his girlfriend driving.

As lawmakers consider what to do next with the drug war, their intent matters. It will either honor the best in people, or continue fostering the worst. And that is not a political statement, when it comes to the ugliness of addiction and the beauty that is possible instead.

The legislature does not just have one problem to fix. It has a drug culture to understand, a set of medicinal options to review, and a lot of people and problems to consider. The law it sets forth has consequences; if well-meaning but ineffective, it's emotionally satisfying but does not take us any further down the road we are on, whether we like it or not. And the people addicted to drugs are not the only ones who pay those consequences.

The drug war has harmed us. When addicted people get out of jail or prison, they need jobs and housing. They may set out to find that in dirty or borrowed clothes, with a lack of options, and a solid practice in anti-social behavior offered by prison life. On-track is possible for some people. Making an on-track life probable is a better idea than punishing people for addictive acts, because of the ripple it can send out to other lives.

Adam Morgan, Mill Creek City councilmember, has expressed support for treatment options to help people "in their moment of crisis."

Vince Cavaleri, councilmember and Snohomish County Deputy has referred to law enforcement as "the tip of the spear," the motivator that pushes people to a better life.

The two comments seem to come from different places. But maybe this is where the notions of law-and-order and life-reparation have common ground: both comments appear to hint at what we all know, when talking about the people we love the most.

They are irreplaceable.

The legislature has a task ahead. It can help addicted people in their time of crisis. And it can acknowledge that those addicted to the most dangerous of drugs won't volunteer to get back on-track.

The state can set the path, and split out the medicinally useful from the always harmful. The road ahead gets easier if the fix for The Blake Decision is done right.

Addicted people, at their lowest point, do not appear to deserve much. It seems illogical to offer them a soft place to land and a helping hand. But we don't help them because they deserve it. We help them because we find the strength to realize that person, once on the right track, may be able to offer something the world needs. Maybe at just the right time.

Someone out there deserves that.


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