Kent passes ordinance banning drug possession

KENT, Wash. — An ordinance banning drug possession in Kent was unanimously approved by the city council Tuesday night.

Proposed by Mayor Dana Ralph, the new law makes possession of controlled substances other than marijuana a gross misdemeanor.

“Heroin, fentanyl, methamphetamine, and other drugs are ravaging cities across the region, and the illicit drug market continues to drive crime to fund addiction. With no statewide legislation in place, the impact on our community will only continue to grow,” said Ralph.

The ordinance also creates an alternative two-year deferred prosecution program for people charged with the crime.

The program gives the violator the choice to participate in treatment and have their charges dismissed. Convictions can also be vacated after treatment has successfully been completed.

The passing of the ordinance comes after lawmakers failed to pass a statewide law on drug possession, leaving local governments to make their own laws.

In 2021, the Supreme Court of Washington passed down what’s now known as the Blake decision, which effectively decriminalized simple drug possession, and by extension, public drug use. Shortly after that, state lawmakers passed a temporary fix which expires on July 1 of this year.

On Tuesday, Gov. Jay Inslee called a special session of the state legislature to address the issue.

The session is set to being on May 16 and will last for 30 days unless lawmakers agree on a drug possession bill before then.

“It is my hope that when the legislature convenes in a special session that they use this ordinance as a template for state-wide action. It is comprehensive, treatment-forward, and can be practically applied in communities across the state,” Ralph said in a statement.