The Eastside's Dueling Drug Policy Reformers

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Containing parts of Kirkland, Redmond, Woodinville, and points east, the 45th Legislative District is hardly a hotbed of radicalism. But the two candidates for the district's statehouse seat share a position well out of the political mainstream: They both advocate wholesale changes to the War on Drugs.

In his time away from the capital, incumbent State Rep. Roger Goodman

heads the King County Bar Association's Drug Policy Reform Project,

where he works on moving drug policy's focus from crime-and-punishment

to public health. His challenger, Toby Nixon, who held the seat from

2002 to 2006 before leaving to run for State Senate (he lost his bid for

an open seat to Eric Oemig) has spoken out in defense of Washington's

medical marijuana law and pushed a bill requiring performance audits of

drug enforcement policies.

If a moderate Eastside district has voted to elect both these

candidates, is the general public ready for wholesale drug policy

reform? "I think people are receptive," says Nixon, "if you can get them

to settle down and have a conversation. Too often it's fear and hysteria

driving our policies." Noting that "some have observed that it's

unfortunate that we're running against each other," Nixon adds that he's

not sure he and Goodman have any disagreements on drug policy reform.

But he wishes Goodman had followed his lead and pushed more drug policy

reform bills as a legislator. "It's unfortunate that the house

leadership has not allowed him to pursue an important issue."

However, Goodman sees the legislator's role in drug policy reform

differently. Noting that Washington is already more progressive than

most states when it comes to drugs, he says further progress must be

preceded by "cultural change," before adding, "I work on that in my

other job [at the KCBA], and by educating my colleagues. But I was

elected to represent my district. I'm not a grenade thrower."

Goodman points to his work on public safety and education issues as the

stuff he was elected to do. He recently received the National Highway

Traffic Safety Administration's "Safety Champions Award" for his

drunk-driving prevention ignition interlock bill, and also co-sponsored

bills to create Washington's Head Start program and allow for the

expansion of Children's Hospital. Nevertheless, as Vice Chair of the

Judiciary Committee, Goodman is in line to replace retiring Chair

Patricia Lantz (D- Gig Harbor), if he wins in November. Should he get

the chairmanship, Goodman hopes to advocate for some "innovative

treatment practices in drug courts," such as applying the

methadone/heroin model to other drugs in an attempt to more effectively

transition chronic addicts into treatment.

"With a $3 billion deficit, we don't want to cut health care or

education, but what about Corrections?" he reasons. "Maybe we shouldn't

be locking people up for a health problem."

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