Seattle City Council holds special meeting on drug use ordinance
Aug 14, 2023, 1:16 PM | Updated: 2:04 pm
(Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
The Seattle City Council’s Public Safety Committee will hold a “special meeting” Monday to discuss a newly revised drug ordinance that would put Seattle in compliance with state law.
But time is running out as the city’s existing drug statute expires this Tuesday.
More on the Seattle drug ordinance: Seattle pushing to adopt WA laws on public drug use, possession
The meeting will have a discussion but not a vote on a new ordinance from the mayor’s task force meant to curb public drug use and possession in Seattle by advocating a “treatment first” approach.
Councilmembers will also hear a presentation on the obstacles in place for providing services to those addicted to fentanyl. Andrew Myerberg from the Mayor’s Office and Greg Doss and Asha Venkataraman with the City Council Central Staff will present on the legislation and its impacts.
The legislation will divert $20 million to increase treatment and overdose response services and $7 million for new capital investments focused on leading with drug treatment.
As written, the proposal would give Seattle the same drug possession law as the one just passed by the state Legislature earlier this year. Senate Bill 5536, known as the Blake fix, made both possession or use of a prohibited substance in a public place a gross misdemeanor — maximum imprisonment time of one year in jail plus a fine worth up to $5,000.
In June, after the city ordinance failed to pass on a 5-4 vote, Harrell appointed a 24-member work group comprised of the four corners of Seattle government – the Mayor’s Office, Seattle City Council, Seattle Municipal Court, and Seattle City Attorney — which led to the proposed legislation.
This meeting comes after the ordinance was not put on the agenda for Tuesday’s city council meeting, meaning that the legislation will not be put to a vote this week. The city council is also set to go on a scheduled two-week break after the meeting, further pushing back the bill’s vote.
Mayor Bruce Harrell originally said in June there would be a new city drug law in place in a matter of weeks, pending council approval.
The city charter says legislation can’t be introduced and voted on in the same session. That means Seattle will likely not be able to prosecute drug crimes for at least the next several weeks, though police can still make arrests.