State supreme court to decide on safe injection initiative

SEATTLE — The demand to put safe injection sites on the King County ballot went before the Washington state Supreme Court today. The legal question is whether voters can override a public health decision. The personal question is over how best to help those struggling with drug addiction.

The Seattle-King County Board of Health plans to create a safe injection site in King County.

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​Marlys McConnell believes one could have saved the life of her son Andrew, who died from a heroin overdose.

"I'm here for him and I'm here for literally thousands of other moms and dads who are fighting for their children who are living with the disease of addiction," she said.

McConnell watched at the state Supreme Court as opponents of safe injection sites told justices that Initiative 27 to stop safe injection sites should be allowed on the ballot.

Joshua Freed, of the group Safe King County, sponsored the initiative. "They'd rather see people get into treatment rather than be enabled by these government-run sites."

Supporters of the sites argued that the law does not allow health measures established by the Seattle-King County Board of Health to be put up to a public vote. 

"(The law) does not allow people, citizens to halt an epidemic response plan by collecting signatures," said Knoll Lowney, representing the group that sued to keep the initiative off the ballot, Protect King County.

The King County Council overrode the Board of Health to allow individual cities to opt out, so opponents say voters should be allowed to decide about the rest of the county.

"Council (said) you could have cities opt out, and most of the cities in King County did," Safe King County lawyer Phil Talmadge told the court.

Ultimately, it comes down to people who need help.

"I feel that if there were services such as this where he could have gone and gotten help and been treated with dignity and respect and been able to bridge to services, it could have possibly made a very big difference in his life," McConnell said.

"We need to be dedicated to get people into treatment. That's true compassion. Not letting people continue to use," said Freed.

If the Supreme Court lets this go to the ballot, it would likely be voted on next February.

But the Trump administration might have the final say on safe consumption sites-- they promise to prosecute any jurisdiction that allows them.

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