‘It is a treatment-forward ordinance’: Kent City Council makes drug possession a gross misdemeanor

KENT, Wash. — John Scully’s insurance office is in the heart of Kent, across from a downtown park.

“It’s where I want to be. I love the park. My grandkids come to the office and they get to go play,” he said.

But Scully says rampant drug use means he often finds paraphernalia like aluminum foil, and he pointed out burn marks on the wall where people have been smoking fentanyl.

“Until we do something as a community to get that using to go away, we’ll watch businesses close down,” Scully said.

On Tuesday night, the Kent city council unanimously passed an ordinance making possession of controlled substances other than cannabis a gross misdemeanor.

It follows a city ordinance last fall outlawing public drug use.

If people get treatment, charges are dismissed and convictions are vacated.

“It is a treatment-forward ordinance,” said Kent Mayor Dana Ralph.

She said the new ordinance, which takes effect July 1, is designed to get people suffering from substance abuse disorder into treatment.

Ralph hopes state legislators take a similar approach when they meet for a special session May 16 before the state’s misdemeanor drug possession law expires July 1.

The current law is a stopgap after the state Supreme Court ruled the felony possession law unconstitutional.

“We’re very afraid that the state legislature, whatever they pass, will prevent cities from doing things that are workable in their communities,” Ralph said.

The Association of Washington Cities says at least 10 cities are pursuing new drug ordinances after legislators adjourned last week without a new law.

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