Seattle city attorney announces plan to criminalize drug use

Apr 27, 2023, 11:19 AM | Updated: 12:52 pm

Seattle drug use...

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

(Getty Images)

Seattle City Attorney Ann Davison, along with Councilmembers Sara Nelson and Alex Pedersen, announced Thursday new legislation regarding the public consumption of controlled substances.

The new law would make the public use of drugs a misdemeanor and does not cover drug possession.

In an interview with The Jason Rantz Show on AM 770 KTTH, Davison explained why she thinks the law should specifically cover public drug use and why it should be a misdemeanor.

“We put this in as a misdemeanor so we can do it today and not wait till July 1, when that temporary fix is lifted because it is urgent,” Davison said. “But it’s also part of what we’re doing is to think about the timing of it. Every day we wait, we do lose people to overdose. And that is really the point. The point is to save lives and to make our streets and parks safer.”

Seattle is the first major city in Washington state to address the issue of public drug use.

Many had hoped that the state Legislature would address this issue before the latest session ended last weekend, but a House and Senate committee could not come up with a compromise plan for a full vote.

The lack of action kicked the issue back to the cities. Those who did not like the more liberal plan that would have essentially de-criminalized public drug use said that there was a bright spot in the lack of a vote. They said that it would allow cities to tailor solutions that would be appropriate for their particular regions.

“There [hasn’t] been one on the books for public use, so we want to get something that is available for getting people into treatment, and to intervene in antisocial behavior and to discourage public drug use,” Davison said. “There’s been nonenforcement of possession. And what we are seeing as the problem is public drug use is making our streets and our buses and our parks unsafe. And it’s certainly not helping getting people into treatment.”

Earlier Thursday, Gov. Jay Inslee announced the possibility of calling a special session to address the issue, as reported by KIRO Newsradio’s Matt Markovich.

Controlled substances are those that come under the auspices of the Drug Enforcement Agency. Legal drugs can only be distributed by a licensed pharmacy.

King County councilmember introduces bill to criminalize drug use

King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn has already offered a solution that would make drug use in public a misdemeanor.

“We’re… disappointed that the state Legislature didn’t have the courage to act to figure out a solution to the legality of use and possession of drugs and public spaces,” Dunn said. “And I really wish they had done that. Because that way, we wouldn’t have a patchwork effect of state laws being different than local laws.”

The news conference is scheduled by the group around midday today at Seattle City Hall Plaza.

Jason Rantz and Matt Markovich contributed to this story.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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Seattle city attorney announces plan to criminalize drug use