Lakewood Council bans public drug use, camping on public property

Mar 22, 2023, 9:29 AM | Updated: 9:45 am

Lakewood Police...

Photo from Flickr @LakewoodPoliceDepartment

The city council of Lakewood approved two ordinances, both unanimous decisions, that will criminalize public drug use and ban camping on public property.

The ban on camping only takes effect if the person refuses available shelter, according to council member Don Anderson.

The penalties for publicly using drugs like meth, heroin, and fentanyl can land someone in jail or with a heavy fine. Violating it is a gross misdemeanor and carries a maximum of 364 days in jail and a possible fine of up to $5,000.

Stine: Public drug use is ‘why people don’t go to downtown anymore’

The goal of these ordinances is to protect public spaces from the harmful impact of open drug use and the placement of unauthorized temporary housing, multiple council members said.

“The point is not to criminalize people,” said Lakewood Mayor Jason Whalen. “But instead to encourage them into treatment. We are serious about it. We are not going to allow it in the streets.”

At the meeting, Lakewood City Councilmember Mike Brandstetter explains why they’re moving to criminalize public usage.

“The public use of illicit drugs in public places creates a perception that such behavior is acceptable and normalizes the illicit drug use, particularly in the eyes of youth,” Brandstetter said.

Lakewood City Councilmember Paul Bocchi says inaction from the state government pushed them to criminalize it.

“There is no disagreement from me that we need a tool to begin to do something that the state has abandoned,” Bocchi said. “They’ve abandoned the field on this, the cities are having to step up, and now this is a cost we’re going to have to take on.”

The ordinances are similar to legislation passed in Kent, Marysville, Edmonds, and Tacoma.

Bellingham last week took up a similar proposal on public drug use, but the measure failed.

The ordinances take effect in 30 days.

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Lakewood Council bans public drug use, camping on public property