Drug consumption sites permanently banned in Snohomish County

Mar 14, 2018, 1:13 PM | Updated: Mar 15, 2018, 9:27 am
drug consumption sites, heroin needles...
Many who attended a public hearing on drug consumption sites support a permanent ban in unincorporated Snohomish County. (File, Associated Press)
(File, Associated Press)

The Snohomish County Council unanimously approved an ordinance that permanently bans drug consumption sites.

Homeless deaths soar in King County

The proposal to permanently ban the supervised drug facilities in unincorporated Snohomish County received minimal opposition during a hearing Wednesday, before the vote.

The ban, which comes in the form of a land-use ordinance, follows proposals for the drug consumption facilities that have “highlighted the lack of regulation of such facilities and uses within unincorporated Snohomish County.”

In order to thoughtfully respond to this rapidly emerging policy issue, the county finds that a conservative approach is appropriate and it is in the best interest of Snohomish County to prohibit supervised drug consumption facilities…

One person opposed to consumption sites told Snohomish County Sheriff Ty Trenary to “get off his lazy butt.” He said the sheriff should talk more about the opioid crisis. Another woman, who says she kicked an opioid habit, referred to injection sites as “killing stations.” She said they invite people to kill themselves.

Proposed drug consumption sites

The permanent ban follows a six-month moratorium on drug consumption sites that county officials passed in September 2017. The council used the time to codify a permanent ban.

“We want to get out ahead of the game and make sure we’re not having these safe injection sites anywhere near Snohomish County,” Councilmember Nate Nehring said in September.

The March 14 hearing discussed how people with 2 grams or less of any drug will not be prosecuted unless charged with another more serious crime. Those opposed argued it was a step in the wrong direction.

Many do not want their tax dollars being spent on consumption sites.

King County safe injection sites

The ban in Snohomish County comes as officials in King County continue their push for two consumption sites. One is planned for Seattle and another elsewhere in the county.

Seattle City Council members recently learned just how expensive it will be. According to a feasibility study, the cost of one site would be at least $3 million. That’s more than the $2 million one council member proposed during the city’s last budget cycle.

Supporters of consumption sites argue against the idea that they increase crime in the area. They say they will decrease deaths linked to overdoses and get people to addiction treatment.

“Suffering from an addiction is a 24-hour problem, not a 10-hour problem a day,” Seattle Councilmember Lorena González recently said.

In Snohomish County, 10 percent of Washington state’s population accounts for more than 18 percent of heroin-related deaths. Yet finding King County’s brand of sympathy may be a bit more difficult.

“Let Seattle do it,” one woman said.

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Drug consumption sites permanently banned in Snohomish County