City of Lakewood passes drug law despite special state session

LAKEWOOD, Wash. — The City of Lakewood is not waiting for Olympia lawmakers to agree on a drug possession law. The city passed their own law Monday night instead.

The ordinance makes it a gross misdemeanor to knowingly possess a controlled substance, which is punishable by up to 364 days in jail, a fine of up to $5,000, or both.

The current Washington state law, which was passed as a stopgap after the Blake decision, expires in July and classifies drug possession as a misdemeanor on the third arrest. There is a maximum sentence of 90 days in jail, up to $1,000 in fines, or both after a third arrest.

The Washington state Legislature failed to pass a remedy to the state’s drug possession law after the House rejected a bill that would have made the possession and use of hard drugs a gross misdemeanor.

Since the bill did not pass before the end of the legislative session, no drug possession laws will exist statewide if legislation is not passed during a special legislative session beginning May 16.

Lakewood joined a number of other cities in creating their own ordinance, including Kent, and others that are banning public drug use, like Everett.

Lakewood Mayor Jason Whalen said the city needed to take action after the Legislature adjourned last month without a solution to the issue.

“The Legislature adjourned last month without an adequate solution to protect the community against drug use and possession. Due to the uncertainty at the state level, we knew we needed to do something for our residents,” Whalen said. “We passed this legislation to protect our residents and provide our law enforcement the tools they need to keep our community safe.”

This new law is similar to two other ordinances passed in March that criminalized public drug use and banned camping on public property.

The city council voted unanimously to approve the proposal, and it will go into effect in 30 days.

“We can’t wait for state legislators to make the right decision,” Whalen said. “We need to protect our community. The action we took tonight does that.”

This story was originally posted on MyNorthwest.