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October 8, 2008 -- Seattle Weekly (WA)

The War On The War On Drugs Hits Kirkland

Competing Candidates Share A Common Theme: It's Time For A Change.

By Damon Agnos

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

Containing parts of Kirkland, Redmond, Woodinville, and points east, the 45th Legislative District is hardly a hotbed of radicalism. But the two candidates for one of the district's two House seats 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 (D-Kirkland) heads the King County Bar Association's Drug Policy Project, where he works on moving drug policy's focus from crime and punishment to public health.

His challenger, Toby Nixon (R-Kirkland), who held the seat from 2002 to 2006 before leaving to run for the 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," Nixon says.

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."

Also visit our "WA State News & Activism" section.

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