Mayor Of Seattle Pushes Back Against Soft-On-Drugs Policy

( – The Mayor of Seattle has proposed a new approach to drug abuse concerns in the city. Bruce Harrell asked city council members to align local law with state legislation that prohibits the possession of drugs, including Fentanyl, and make such possession a gross misdemeanor. Harrell’s proposal would also set aside $27 million to help drug abusers in what the Mayor hopes will strike the right balance between law enforcement and compassion for addicts.

The city council voted to reject new state legislation in June as lawmakers believed it would disproportionately affect black and ethnic minority communities. During the debate, council member Andrew Lewis backed the laws and said, “This package is a balanced approach to respond to the crisis fentanyl has brought to our streets.”

When he signed the state legislation into law, Governor Jay Inslee assured lawmakers and residents that the intent was not to punish drug users but to allow them to seek treatment. Inslee said the bill was not designed to fill the state’s jails but its treatment centers.

The law made possessing controlled substances punishable with a $1,000 fine, 180 days in jail, or both. Crucially, it offers the suspect a chance to have the charges dropped in exchange for a commitment to a treatment program.

The Seattle city council surprised both members and analysts when lawmakers voted 5-4 against adopting the state measure in the city. Council Members Andrew Lewis, Lisa Herbold, Teresa Mosqueda, Tammy Morales, and Kshama Sawant voted against passing the bill, to the disbelief of Council President Debora Juarez and other colleagues.

Andrew Lewis stunned observers when he changed his mind and voted against it, saying he wanted further debate on the matter. He added that to his understanding, prosecutors don’t want to pursue drug-criminalizing cases, so the public, and their representatives, need more clarity.

Drug overdose deaths rose by 72% in Seattle between 2021 and 2022, prompting the debate. The new state laws took effect on July 1.

Copyright 2023,