Seattle passes drug ordinance; Marysville considers changes to drug laws

Sep 19, 2023, 9:31 AM | Updated: 6:08 pm


A fentanyl user holds a needle. Suicides and drug overdoses helped lead a surge in U.S. deaths last year. (AP, File)

(AP, File)

The Seattle City Council voted to pass an ordinance Tuesday that aligns the city’s drug use laws with legislation the state passed earlier this year. The city of Marysville also is considering mandatory minimum jail time for drug use.

The ordinance in Seattle makes public drug use and possession a gross misdemeanor.

More on Seattle drug ordinance: City Council passes legislation that aligns with state

Unlike previous ordinances, it also requires Seattle police to adopt policies that favor treatment and diversion — with arrest considered a “last resort” if the person is deemed a threat to others.

The city has not been able to prosecute misdemeanor drug crimes for more than a month since the previous ordinance expired.

The state legislature passed a law on misdemeanor drug use in May. The city council tried to pass a similar ordinance in June, but it was narrowly voted down.

Marysville considers revisiting penalties for public drug use

In Marysville, a new proposal would mean harsher penalties for those caught publicly using drugs.

The proposed legislation suggests implementing a mandatory minimum jail time of 30 days for anyone who’s committed three or more so-called public disorder crimes within the past five years. The minimum would increase to 60 and 90 days for additional offenses.

Those crimes can include public drug use, car prowling, and trespassing.

Mayor Jon Nehring, who helped craft the proposal, says part of the goal is to deal with the fentanyl crisis.

“Fentanyl is a deal sentence for someone who’s addicted to it,” he said. “They will die. So it’s not compassionate to just leave them out there to continue this cycle and find them dead under a bridge someday. What is compassionate is to find solutions.”

Nehring said Marysville already has and will continue to support diversion programs — but that the fentanyl epidemic has provided new challenges that require new tactics. He said mandatory jail time could be reduced for completing treatment.

The proposal could be up for a city council vote next month.

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Seattle passes drug ordinance; Marysville considers changes to drug laws