Kent Mayor wants to keep tougher drug use laws, with legislation stalling

Apr 21, 2023, 1:51 PM

Seattle drug use...

Open drug use continues to plague Washington cities, including Seattle. (Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

Kent Mayor Dana Ralph is concerned about dueling drug use bills in the legislature, stating open drug use in her city is a “huge problem, but doing nothing isn’t ok. Saying we don’t care if you’re using fentanyl. That’s not compassionate, and that’s not helping anybody.”

Ralph is one of 28 mayors who signed a letter supporting the Senate version of a bill that has stronger drug laws than the House bill.

28 mayors don’t want shorter drug sentences proposed in House bill

On The Gee & Ursula Show, Ralph said the Senate version of the bill “we can absolutely live with.” But when the bill went to the House, it changed significantly. “If that house version stands, we feel like it would honestly be better for there not to be anything on the books, and then individual cities could regulate.”

House and Senate leaders will try to hammer out a compromise piece of legislation over the weekend.

“The way it’s written (the House version of the bill) is a pretty narrow version of (drug) use. So an officer would have to see someone in the act of using drugs. So it spells out, you know, inserting a needle, smoking something, that kind of thing,” she said.

“We need that definition of use to be broadened to include preparatory acts, getting ready to use drugs or possession of paraphernalia that is used for drugs, it will make it really difficult to get anybody into the diversion programs that would exist on the other side.”

The mayor believes a multi-pronged approach to illegal drug use must be implemented.

“The biggest thing is finding pathways to get people into treatment. So I’ll be the first one to tell you that not enough treatment exists. And that’s something that the state also needs to address,” the mayor explained.

“But right now, there’s very little incentive for folks to choose treatment when they are that deep in addiction. And we know that a lot of times if they’re given a choice, treatment or jail, people choose treatment; it gives them that pathway that they need.”

Ralph said that right now, that pathway doesn’t exist to the extent it has to. She also said that government needs to address other issues concerning drug use.

“It starts with supply. Where are the drugs coming from? How are they getting here? Where are they being made?” the mayor said.

Ralph explained that education is also crucial. She said if the state focuses on education, the state may be able to stem drug use before it begins.

“We’ve seen a significant increase in people openly using drugs in our parks, on the sidewalks, and in the streets in their cars. We’ve seen, just like every other city, increases in overdoses.”

Listen to Gee Scott and Ursula Reutin weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Kent Mayor wants to keep tougher drug use laws, with legislation stalling