Gross: Cities find solutions after legislative failure on drug use law

Apr 29, 2023, 5:57 PM

Drug use...

Cities across Washington state are finding their own solutions after the state Legislature failed to compromise on a public drug use bill. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

(Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

The City of Marysville was one of the first local municipalities to pass a law making the first offense of open-drug use punishable by jail time. Drug policy is obviously a hot-button issue — notably, state lawmakers failed to pass a fix to the 2021 Blake Decision.

Drugs have been effectively legalized statewide for the time being. However, cities and counties would be given the ability to craft their own laws. Cities like Marysville have a head start with a policy that has made some progress since its institution in January.

Marysville Police Chief: Rampant drug problem ‘plaguing our parks’

“One of the things that this law is allowing us to do is meet that public expectation of keeping drugs out of our public places,” Marysville Police Chief Erik Scairpon told the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH. “And trying to break that cycle of addiction for users.”

Reclaiming public spaces like parks and sidewalks is the goal of the department. Chief Scairpon says they have had success in doing so.

Marysville is hoping to see more success in connecting drug users to services. That is another key piece of the puzzle — it’s easier said than done.

“Well, not often enough,” Scairpon said when asked about how many people are saying ‘yes’ to addiction services.

“There is funding in the current approved state budget to help go towards treatment and resource centers, those are things that we need to fund and move forward.”

All cities across the state will deal with this arm of the problem. Lack of legislation at the state level will undoubtedly create challenges.

But there has been motivation on the city level to get something accomplished. This was evidenced by the letter signed by 28 mayors sent to the state Legislature near the end of the session last week.

The letter voiced displeasure for a watered-down drug possession bill that did not pass anyway.

Kent Mayor Dana Ralph was one of the mayors who signed on. She has been actively searching for a solution that serves the city of Kent.

“So the reality is people respond to consequences, they need to have choices,” Ralph told the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH. “We’re not criminalizing addiction, we’re criminalizing possession of drugs, we’re criminalizing public use of drugs.”

Ralph says she has been a longtime advocate for recovery and connecting her citizens with services, but many conversations have been eye-opening.

“I always ask the question, ‘What got you to this place?’ and over and over again, it’s ‘I got tired of waking up in jail,’” Ralph said. “I didn’t want to go to jail again.”

More from Max Gross: Concerning trend continues at Renton homeless hotels

So many city officials, residents, and business owners are on the same page about this issue. The fact that the state Legislature failed to get a bill passed is disgraceful.

City leaders have now been tasked with stepping up to make things right for their communities. Hopefully, they can deliver.

Jason Rantz on AM 770 KTTH
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Gross: Cities find solutions after legislative failure on drug use law