Seattle city attorney argues for crack down on drug abuse
Fri, May 26, 2023 12:56 PM
By Elizabeth Troutman, The Center Square
Seattle’s city attorney is calling on the City Council to approve her proposal to crack down on public drug use and possession.
“It is an epidemic and it needs to be addressed with urgency like we did with COVID,” Seattle City Attorney Ann Davison told Fox 13 Seattle.
Davison is asking the City Council to approve her proposal of updating city code to classify public drug possession and drug use as gross misdemeanors. Lawmakers made this change to state law during a special session earlier in May.
The law, signed by the governor on May 16 and taking effect on July 1, makes it a gross misdemeanor to “knowingly possess counterfeit substances and controlled substances” or “knowingly use prohibited substances in a public place.”
The city attorney’s office would be able to prosecute the gross misdemeanor charges, rather than leaving it to the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, which mostly focuses on felonies, if the City Council adopts Davison’s proposal.
"What we’re asking is [for] City Council, frankly, to do their duty and conform to state law, which our state lawmakers have decided again, drug possession and drug use is now a gross misdemeanor in the State of Washington,” Davison said. “In essence, if they didn’t, it would effectively legalize hard drugs in the city of Seattle.”
Downtown and central Seattle contained the highest rates of fentanyl-related overdoses in King County in 2022, according to a Public Health Seattle & King County report. The majority of people dying from hard drugs are in Seattle.
The county files an average of more than 30 charges each month against drug dealers, nearly 70% of which involve fentanyl or methamphetamine.
“Our parks, streets and buses — it’s clear that what we’ve been doing isn’t working, because there is so much public drug use, and it leaves the everyday-person wondering, ‘What are we supposed to do?’ And they put people like me in decision-making places, so we can be helpful and take care of that, and that’s what we need to be doing,” Davison said.
Davison thinks her proposal would improve accountability and save lives.