Councilmembers Sara Nelson (District 9, Citywide) and Alex Pedersen (District 4, Northeast Seattle), and City Attorney Ann Davison issued the following statements today following a vote on Council Bill 120586, which failed by a vote of 5 – 4 today in Full Council. The bill would have made the knowing possession and public use of illegal drugs a gross misdemeanor, effectively codifying the Revised Code of Washington, or RCW 39.34.180.
“We had one job — conform to state law making drug possession and public use a gross misdemeanor – and we failed. As a result, the City lost out on a crucial new tool to get more people into treatment and reduce the negative health and safety impacts associated with consuming deadly drugs in parks, on sidewalks, and on public transit and other public places. I’m disappointed that for the time being, the majority of Councilmembers have chosen to stick with the status quo that’s claiming more and more lives every day,” said Councilmember Nelson.
“I’m disappointed that a majority of City Council failed today to adopt the compromise carefully crafted by our State government nearly a month ago to curb illegal drugs,” said Councilmember Pedersen. “The loud voices criticizing this commonsense legislation are criticizing the hard work of our Democratic governor and State Legislature and demonstrating a lack of trust in our executive branch to implement this in an appropriate manner. Permitting a perplexing patchwork of public health and safety laws further damages Seattle’s reputation, because many will perceive our city as descending from Defund to Decriminalize.”
“I am outraged that today some City Councilmembers chose to take no action against the soaring opioid epidemic in Seattle. What we’ve been doing is not working. Our buses, parks and sidewalks are filled with individuals who need help getting into treatment,” said City Attorney Ann Davison. “Seattle will now be the only municipality in the State of Washington where it is legal to use hard drugs in public. That means drug use on public transit and in our neighborhoods will continue unimpeded. Sadly because of the obstruction of these City Councilmembers, overdose deaths are likely to continue to climb.”