This March, my legal staff and I channeled resources into protecting the health and safety of Washingtonians by taking legal action against three largest opioid distributors. We are woefully under-resourced when it comes to treatment and our populations are hurting as a result of the negligence of opioid distributors. This must change. We asked the court to hold these powerful interests accountable for the role they play in fueling the opioid epidemic. The relief requested, if granted, will go towards treatment for those suffering from dependency.
My office also committed $750,000 in grant funds to finding answers for the victims of sexual assault and their families. This is the first round of funds dedicated to testing more than 1,000 rape kits as part of our ongoing Sexual Assault Kit Initiative.
In a major victory for Washington’s kids, our Legislature passed a bill legislation raising the sale age for tobacco and vapor products to 21. I worked on the legislation for five years. I’m proud that this effort will lead to fewer teens hooked on nicotine, and longer, healthier lives for the next generation.
Finally, in a letter to firearms dealers, Gov. Jay Inslee and I issued a warning to uphold the license requirements our voters approved in Initiative 1639.
In this issue:
Thank you for following the work of the Attorney General’s Office.
In March, I filed a lawsuit against the three largest distributors of prescription opioids in Washington State, arguing that they failed to alert law enforcement of suspicious opioid orders, and illegally shipped those orders into Washington for years.
McKesson Corp., Cardinal Health Inc. and AmerisourceBergen Drug Corp. supply the majority of opioids coming into Washington, shipping huge amounts of oxycodone, fentanyl, hydrocodone and other prescription opioids into the state.
Between 2006 and 2014, these three companies supplied more than 2 billion opioid pills to Washington. In 2015, there were eight counties with more prescriptions than people. In 2018, there were 16 counties with enough prescriptions for every woman, man and child in Washington.
Opioid distributers are legally required to monitor the size and frequency of prescription opioid orders to identify suspicious orders that could be diverted into the illegal drug market. Distributors are required to stop these suspicious shipments and report them to the federal Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).
Based on shipping data, a conservative calculation suggests these companies may have shipped more than 250,000 suspicious orders into Washington state between 2006 and 2014. A less conservative calculation puts that number more than 3 ½ times that high, at nearly a million.
McKesson, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen have faced multiple actions by the DEA and others for failing to monitor and stop suspicious orders.
These companies’ unlawful actions must be stopped and I will use resources available to me as the Attorney General to see that they are held accountable and changes are made. I held a press conference this month to discuss this lawsuit and the steps my office is taking to fight our state’s opioid epidemic which has strained our healthcare system and devastated families.
Between 2006 and 2017, opioid overdoses killed more than 8,000 Washingtonians, more than were killed by car accidents or firearms.
The lawsuit filed by my office this month seeks civil penalties and damages from the companies and asks the court to order distributors give up profits they made in Washington as a result of their illegal conduct. Surrendered profits will be used to counter the opioid epidemic, possibly funding treatment, education and more.
Since my office applied for the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) grant back in April 2017, we have found 6,725 kits that, at the time, had not yet been submitted for lab testing by local law enforcement agencies.
This month, we committed $750,000 in grant funds to test these unsubmitted kits as part of our initiative.
Because the Washington State Patrol is responsible for all law enforcement DNA testing in Washington State, the State Patrol will send kits to an outside lab for testing, then seek reimbursement from the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) grant funds. We estimate that approximately 1,150 kits will be tested with this first round of funds.
If the testing results in DNA matches, my office will track those cases.
Testing these kits not only honors the courage of survivors, but also identifies serial offenders who might otherwise go free. In one case, a suspect was charged with child rape more than 10 years after the crime, thanks to the results of a backlogged rape kit.
Local law enforcement can use DNA found by testing backlogged kits to reopen cold cases. My office will offer investigative assistance to local law enforcement agencies that, under state law, have the authority to investigate and charge criminal cases. In Washington state, the Attorney General only has authority to initiate criminal investigations after receiving a referral from a county prosecuting attorney or the Governor.
Throughout the initiative, the AGO will host victim-centered trauma training around the state for law enforcement agencies, prosecutors and victim advocates.
More information on the ongoing project is available here.
The Spokesman Review
As a father of eleven-year-old twins, I am proud to announce that this month the Washington State Legislature adopted my proposal, with a bipartisan vote of 33-12 in the Washington State Senate, to raise the sale age for tobacco and vapor products to 21.
Without this change, tobacco addiction would have shortened the lives of 104,000 kids alive in Washington state today. By passing this bill, the Legislature is saving thousands of Washingtonians from a lifetime of addiction and smoking-related illnesses.
The bill goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2020.
Washington is the 9th state to raise the age of sale of tobacco and vapor products to 21. I first introduced the bill in 2015 and if it had passed, Washington would have been the first state to raise the age. Since then, more than 450 cities and counties nationwide have raised the tobacco sale age to 21.
I want to thank the large bipartisan group of elected leaders, health advocates, businesses, educators, students and parents for helping us make this happen. I also thank two students from Inglemoor and Ridgefield High Schools who, earlier this year, testified in support of the bill.
Addressing the heavy toll of tobacco-related disease, both in human lives and health care costs, moves us closer to being able to provide universal access to affordable health care for all Washingtonians. The average Washington household currently pays $789 in taxes each year due to smoking-related health care — even if nobody in that household smokes.
Tobacco has a ripple effect within schools that can no longer be ignored. As a result of the hard work in support of Tobacco 21, I expect a reduction in tobacco and vape use among high school students in the years following the passage of this bill.
Gov. Jay Inslee and I wrote a letter to 262 firearms dealers in counties where sheriffs have indicated they will not enforce Initiative-1639, warning that, regardless of local officials’ opposition to I-1639, firearms dealers are still required to follow state law.
Local officials’ personal opposition to I-1639 may have created confusion regarding firearms dealers’ legal responsibilities. We wrote this letter to ensure these dealers have accurate information about the initiative to avoid legal jeopardy because of statements made by local elected officials.
Notably for firearms dealers, this initiative includes enhanced background checks on all sales of semiautomatic assault rifles and the prohibition on selling semiautomatic assault rifles to those under age 21.
The minimum sale age of semiautomatic assault rifles is already in effect, while the remaining provisions go into effect July 1.
Firearms dealers are required to comply with state and federal law as a condition of their federal licenses. Unless a court rules otherwise, laws and initiatives are presumed to be constitutional. No court has struck down any provision of I-1639.
This letter advises firearms dealers that they could face license revocation or state or federal criminal charges if they break the law.
Further clarification on the initiative’s requirements can be found on the “Frequently Asked Questions” page released earlier this month.
Connecting with diverse communities that make Washington such a beautiful place to live is a privilege of mine.
Unfortunately, my engagement this month with one of those communities was prompted by a tragedy on the other side of the world. I attended an important vigil in response to the recent attack on the Muslim community in New Zealand. Islamophobia will not be tolerated. The interfaith event, led by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, was an opportunity to discuss the work the AGO does to prosecute and protect against hate crimes. I’ve asked the Legislature for the authority to convene a work group on hate crimes this year.
I once again participated in the 3rd Annual Nowruz—Persian New Year— with Iranian-American communities in praise of the diversity that enriches our state. I spoke at Latino Legislative Day for a lunchtime rally on policies and legislation focused on combating family separation.
I spoke at the Kiwanis Club of Federal Way, an organization that sponsors youth and community programs throughout Federal Way.
And on International Women’s Day I was honored to receive the Changemaker Award for speaking at the Women’s March and work to end the backlog of sexual assault kits as part of the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative.
South Seattle Emerald
The Seattle Times
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