Mayors seek to address drug possession law after state legislature fails to pass bill

In the absence of a legislative fix to the Blake Decision, local leaders across Washington state are taking matters into their own hands, proposing public drug use bans of their own.

Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin wants to outlaw drug use out in the open. Right now, she’s urging the Everett City Council to make it a misdemeanor that could land violators with jail time.

“It’s a tool that we need,” said Franklin. “The criminal justice system is a necessary part of the equation.”

Mayor Franklin is among the local leaders that originally supported the original statewide solution, Senate Bill 5536, but then changed their position.

“It wasn’t perfect, but it was going to be a really good step in the right direction,” said Franklin. “The final version that came out was unacceptable.”

Both Mayor Franklin and King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn prefer a statewide solution to action by local government. They want Gov. Jay Inslee to call a special session and bring lawmakers back to Olympia.

“In the absence of leadership by the legislature, it means that cities and counties are the ones that will have to implement a criminal code,” said Dunn.

Dunn drafted his own legislation for King County that would make it illegal to consume drugs in plain view of the public. Violators could face up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

“This is a plan B, but we’ve got to start working on the plan B so that we have something in place before July 1,” said Dunn. “That’s just over two months, we’re running out of time.”

Dunn wrote a letter with commissioners from both Pierce and Snohomish counties asking the State Association of Counties to consider formulating a model law that all of these local jurisdictions can pass. He’s concerned about a confusing patchwork of legislation. Mayor Franklin wants cohesion as well.

“Right now, you have local mayors across the state working collaboratively to try and match our ordinances,” said Franklin. “We are talking to the coalition in South King County, we are talking to Spokane.”