FOLLOWUP: City Council rejects amending city code to match new state drug law

After hours of passionate public comment and councilmember speeches, the City Council voted this evening to reject a proposal to match city law with the new state law regarding drug possession. The vote was 4 yes, 5 no. Voting yes were Council President Debora Juarez and Councilmembers Sara Nelson, Alex Pedersen, and Dan Strauss. The “no” votes included West Seattle/South Park Councilmember Lisa Herbold, who noted that the mayor and police chief have said that drug sales and trafficking are their enforcement priority. Herbold also said she has no faith to believe the City Attorney’s Office will individualize its dealings with people who would be arrested under this law, because of the recent unilateral decision to stop involvement with the Community Court program. City Attorney Ann Davison, who had co-sponsored the proposal that the Council rejected, said afterward in a news release that “Seattle will now be the only municipality in the State of Washington where it is legal to use hard drugs in public.” Herbold fired back in her own news release calling that “an inexcusable mischaracterization of the law. As a result of Governor Inslee’s special session, the legislature approved a bill that adopts a statewide standard of gross misdemeanor for both possession and public consumption. This means that there is now a clear, statewide standard, and there is not a patchwork of differing regulations across the state. This state law will be effective in Seattle on July 1. Nothing the Council does, or does not do, can affect that.” Here’s video of the meeting:

72 Replies to "FOLLOWUP: City Council rejects amending city code to match new state drug law"

  • Admiral June 6, 2023 (10:11 pm)

    This is obscene to continue to allow people to openly use drugs in public view!  Enough already!

    I guess it’s now legal to drink brewskies at Alki!

    • Josh June 7, 2023 (12:20 am)

      How is this even remotely true. Do the laws of the state of Washington not apply in Seattle?  Of course they do. Enough nonsense fear mongering. 

      • Admyrl Byrd June 8, 2023 (9:37 pm)

        If a law isn’t enforced, does it apply?  That’s exactly what happened.  DeFacto legalization.  Don’t conflate this with fear mongering.

  • What has happened to Seattle June 6, 2023 (10:12 pm)

    This town has turned into a dumpster fire. Without any enforcement it will get way worse as it has in recent years. Expecting different results while doing the same thing is insanity. Get ready for Seattle to be a case study of how to destroy your community and beyond. 

    • Odd son June 6, 2023 (10:29 pm)


    • CAM June 6, 2023 (10:42 pm)

      How is it going to get worse when this is not a change? You’re assuming that there was a time in recent history when people were being arrested and charged with simple possession. 

  • VOTER June 6, 2023 (10:27 pm)

    Bye bye Lisa.   I don’t blame you for not running for re-election, you wouldn’t have gotten the vote.  You are not representing the majority of your constituents.  Thank you for your contributions to furthering the decay of our city.

    • Reed June 7, 2023 (6:28 am)

      Her election results say she IS representing the majority; if not, how did she get re-elected?

      • admyrl byrd June 8, 2023 (9:39 pm)

        Reed – you forget that many voted for her when she campaigned on increasing the police force then – voila / abracadabra – she gets voted in and flip flops.  She would not have gotten the majority if she campaigned on cutting police.

    • Nearby resident June 7, 2023 (7:24 am)

      Well said! Nothing else to add. 

    • Thomas June 7, 2023 (8:33 am)

      The sooner Lisa is gone the better! All the alternatives that she and the Council have proposed have failed.

    • JunctionResident June 7, 2023 (2:22 pm)

      Yup, can’t wait for her to leave. I am backing Phil Tavel in the primary for District 1. Go Phil! Send in your democracy vouchers please.

  • Neighbor June 6, 2023 (10:32 pm)

    I’m confused, what would the city law have done that is different from the state law that would supersede it anyway?

    • Mark H June 7, 2023 (4:46 am)

      Without a local law there will be zero enforcement effort.  Enjoy those Fenty Friday metro rides….. Every day!

      • Lindsey June 7, 2023 (9:54 am)

        There’s zero enforcement effort anyway. Nothing the city council does or does not do can make SPD do their jobs. 

        • Neighbor June 7, 2023 (10:45 am)

          There’s no SPD enforcement because historically prosecutors don’t do anything, right?  Isn’t that why we elected Davison?

      • Neighbor June 7, 2023 (10:46 am)

        I’m asking what the difference is in the proposed city law.  State law still applies in Seattle.  So what would the city law even accomplish?

        • Marina June 7, 2023 (5:06 pm)

          If I’m understanding it right, this kicks enforcement responsibility to king county (and the king county prosecutor has said repeated that they don’t have the resources to prosecute on Seattle’s behalf).  Hence the defacto legalization. 

          • Neigbor June 7, 2023 (11:07 pm)

            Thanks for the clarification Marina.  That seems like a poor excuse for not doing their job from the county.  If what you say is true we should focus our ire there.

  • Proud Constituent June 6, 2023 (10:36 pm)

    I am pleased to hear that Lisa Herbold weighed the option and saw that this proposal was simply a way to fill prisons. Drugs and drug use is far less of an issue than violent crime including recent shootings in the area not to mention reckless driving along Alki/Harbor (I hear it every day/night).

    • Mel June 7, 2023 (6:01 am)

      You’re assuming crime and drug use are not associated. Not the gun crimes, no.  But SO many property crimes in this area are committed by people on drugs, stealing to get more drugs. Wake up.

    • M June 7, 2023 (6:09 am)

      Well said.

    • K June 7, 2023 (8:11 am)

      Do you think, perhaps, much of the violent crime is instigated by, or involves drugs?   

    • Christopher B. June 7, 2023 (9:14 am)

      It’s presumptuous and blind to suggest that drug use has nothing to do with violent crime (including gang violence) in Seattle.  Not to mention the mountain of property crime that feeds the drug habits of addicts.  

      • Proud Constituent June 7, 2023 (5:34 pm)

        Believe what you will folks. Painting with a broad and generalized brush is a dangerous way of thinking about other people. It appears, imo, that most commenters want to demonize and sweep a subsection of people under the rug. Out of sight out of mind. Friends and neighbors, there is no ‘otherness’. Others are part of our society and sending them to jail is not a long-term solution to rehabilitation. “They’re on drugs! They’re drinking on a beach! They’re doing all the crimes!” Please stop drumming up fear. 

  • CAM June 6, 2023 (10:39 pm)

    Ann Davison wants to drum up drama and anger during an election cycle. She knew this wouldn’t pass. There is no funding, staffing, space, resources, etc. to enact this legislation that she wants. When these were felony eligible charges they weren’t being charged in isolation either. They were only being charged in conjunction with other primary offenses that the person was arrested for during which the substances were discovered. Seattle police have not been making these arrests solely for possession for years, even before the Blake reforms, and somehow Ann Davison thinks she is going to get them to prioritize this now over any of the other things they say they don’t have time to do? And even if they do, where will they go? They won’t be in jail because the courts aren’t going to set bail for someone on simple possession charges because it doesn’t meet the criteria for what bail is for. And who is going to prosecute the charges? The city attorney’s office doesn’t have time to start holding hundreds more hearings every week, nor do the courts. All you’re doing is delaying proceedings for more serious charges and distracting prosecutors and defense attorneys from those more potentially harmful cases. It’s all a smoke show intended to rile you up. 

    • Jort June 6, 2023 (10:58 pm)

      “Governance priorities set by comment section people.” That’s all this is. Seattle’s politicians have a very hard time avoiding this deeply, fundamentally un-representative method of gleaning public sentiment. Comments sections don’t vote, as the results from more than a decade of elections have shown. 

    • wscommuter June 7, 2023 (10:18 am)

      I’m curious as to what “more serious charges” you think would be “delayed” by enforcing criminal possession laws?  Given that the municipal court is a court of limited jurisdiction and only handles misdemeanors, aside from Assault 4 offenses and DWI’s, at this point in time with the epidemic of fentanyl abuse, what could possibly be more serious than prosecuting drug possession offenses in Seattle Municipal Court?  Further, given that in WA misdemeanor offenses (unlike felony offenses) allow the court to order drug treatment for offenders who otherwise refuse treatment, how is this not a good idea?  Obviously, this isn’t/couldn’t be a panacea … but prosecuting possession offenses does afford the chance to impose treatment.  So yes, I’ll be voting this fall for a city council candidate who sees that.  

      • CAM June 7, 2023 (5:58 pm)

        1) Just because a charge doesn’t sound serious doesn’t mean it isn’t. What percentage of DV charges are processed as misdemeanors? 2) Ordering involuntary drug treatment is a joke unless someone is acutely unwell. Saying that you’re going to do it to stop people from shoplifting is ridiculous. Also, please list for me the sources for the billions of dollars in substance use treatment dollars that you are coming up with to create this utopia?

        • wscommuter June 8, 2023 (10:04 am)

          With all due respect, your comment is gibberish.  No one is talking about utopia.  We’re living in the real world.   As I noted already, Assault 4 offenses (most of which are DV) and DWI’s are the most serious offenses possible in Muni court and get their due attention.  After that, dealing with drug addicted folks who are destroying not only their own lives, but too often hurting other people through stealing (to support habit) or using drugs where other people are exposed to it is an intolerable situation.  Are you suggesting that we just ignore the behavior?  Agreed – we need more money for treatment.  But that doesn’t mean you don’t enforce possession laws where you can order people to get help from what is available.  It strikes me as profoundly inhuman to not take that step for the addict who is out of control.  

          • CAM June 8, 2023 (11:47 am)

            With all due respect, I do not accept your disrespect. So your concern is that people who are using drugs are committing crimes? Well then charge them with those crimes. Or is it that you want to pile on charges to make it more likely that they will plead guilty, a common prosecutorial ploy? Unless someone passes legislation that encourages the beating down of rich white people’s doors to stop the illegal substance use happening there, any arrests and/or charges of people with substance use will be solely based on the fact that people have nowhere else to use those drugs and aren’t rich enough to do it in private. If they are arrested for something else and found to have drugs during that process, well then they are already going to be charged with the offense they were arrested for. Once again, you can’t force someone to stop using drugs. Arresting people repeatedly and putting them in and out of jail actually increases the likelihood that people will continue to use drugs in a lot of scenarios. The criminal justice system is not the answer. The RCW was written with the intent to give local municipalities the discretion about how to implement it. The city council made that decision. 

  • Thee33 June 6, 2023 (10:48 pm)

    Herbold has once again failed. Miserably. Does she even listen to her constituents? Apparently not; since enforcement is favored about 5 to 1. Seattle will continue to be a den of druggies. Oh wait, according to Lisa, the state patrol will now come in arrest someone under state law. Please. Without active Seattle police enforcement, we will continue to see what we see everyday – open drug use all over the city. Pathetic. 

  • Rb June 6, 2023 (11:30 pm)

    I really like Ann Davidson. We need more leaders like her. Someone who is pro law and not pro criminal. I hope we can change the city council for the better this time around.  

  • WS Guy June 6, 2023 (11:49 pm)

    How much longer do we have to put up with Herbold?

  • Scubafrog June 7, 2023 (12:18 am)

    Sadly, without some kind of intervention (legal/treatment), I imagine we’ll see many many more fentanyl-induced deaths in Seattle.  This Seattle Council’s approach?  Nothing.  The same with crime:  Nothing.  Hopefully new candidates have a better approach to crime and drugs.

  • Mark H June 7, 2023 (4:42 am)

    Thanks to West Seattle for Lisa Herbold.  Great pick everyone.

  • anonyme June 7, 2023 (5:48 am)

    Drug sales and trafficking are only part of the entire crime package.  Users are not mere victims, but participants in a crime who then go on to commit more crimes to support their habit.  How can Herbold and other council members look around this city and think their approach is working?   They are directly to blame for this mess.

  • Marcus June 7, 2023 (6:03 am)

    Making Fentanyl or other illegal public drug use illegal is just one tool to get these guys into therapy.  Detoxing in jail with or without medical supervision is valid it also sends a message.  Yet the anti-police, let’s love the drug users to death (yeah that is what it is) are so hateful of any society enforcement that they would rather see continual overdose deaths.  Not to mention the toll on society.  But really the far left is just like the far right, they want to destroy  the existing establishment and rebuild in their own vision.  Not working guys, no matter how much you hate the existing establishment.  

  • WSeaMe June 7, 2023 (6:31 am)

    Maren Costa (city council candidate to replace herbold) posted a plea for city council to vote no on this as well. Voters- do your homework before the primaries if you want real change.  The council is so good at saying “no” to police the law due to x,y,x but the council doesn’t put forward plans to fix x,y,x. Such a sad cycle of inaction, all the while, everything continues to deteriorate.  The new candidates for council need to read the room. Fighting amazon about climate change is not what constituents  want our city council representative to prioritize. 

    • Catgirl June 7, 2023 (12:21 pm)

      Yes, good point. I will definitely be voting for Maren. Because fighting Amazon for workers rights and climate change is incredibly important to me. 

      • WSeaMe June 7, 2023 (10:21 pm)

        First of all – these already well-paid amazon “activists” all got a really big payouts upon exit. Seems like they should handed that over to the cause, no?? No, they are keeping that money. Look into it. Second, I guess watching our city rot is an acceptable tradeoff for these ill-positioned and phony fights. Hey climate change is thwarted, but we all got shot in Seattle. RIP

  • D Martin June 7, 2023 (6:47 am)

    For all those of you complaining about Herbold, you elected her twice. By the second time we all knew what she was about. 

    • Neighbor June 7, 2023 (10:50 am)

      Herbold has never been elected unanimously.

    • anonyme June 7, 2023 (3:18 pm)

      Uh, you do understand that a LOT of people did NOT vote for Herbold, right?  So no, “we” did not elect her once, much less twice.

    • Jon Wright June 7, 2023 (3:43 pm)

      Just goes to show how unrepresentative web commenters are of the general electorate.

  • Jeepney June 7, 2023 (6:54 am)

    It’s sad that city leaders enable and encourage destructive drug use.  What has the current council done to combat this epidemic?

  • flimflam June 7, 2023 (7:13 am)

    Does the “no” vote from this council really come as a surprise to anyone?

  • Derrick June 7, 2023 (7:24 am)

    Are there any transcripts of this meeting somewhere that we could read, or a summary? Some of us prefer reading to watching a video… 

    • WSB June 7, 2023 (10:38 am)

      I am sure the regional media outlets have multiple reports today, as this was the hottest citywide topic at the time. I listened in on many of the comments, which were overwhelmingly against the proposal, and then listened for the result while we were on site at OLG setting up for our candidates’ forum, so I don’t have comprehensive notes. (My original intent was to publish something as soon as they voted, but the big power outage got in the way of that.)

  • Morgan June 7, 2023 (7:28 am)

    For reporting, the importance of local ordinance to local encore center rate— is there a causal link? Will a state law without local law match be enforced the same? This is the important point here to distinguish.

  • AlkiResident June 7, 2023 (8:00 am)

    This makes me so angry! Herbold…the “public safety” chair. What a joke. Throwing a match into the barn on her way out.  

    • wsres June 7, 2023 (4:37 pm)

      Ugh! Lisa Herbold is awful!!! I can’t wait to vote in someone else. 

  • Brian June 7, 2023 (8:03 am)

    Sounds good, that law is insane and isn’t going to help anything.

    • Rhonda June 7, 2023 (4:47 pm)

      No, Brian, the new law is fine. What’s insane is roughly 2 people dying of drug overdoses every day in Seattle due to illegal possession. You’re not the one doing CPR on them and then putting them into a body bag for the medical examiner.

  • Jay Ngyuen June 7, 2023 (8:09 am)

    I work in the south end of downtown Seattle. The  things I have seen people do it to each other in that area, and the living conditions and violence  remind me of a different time and place in my life prior to moving to America . 

  • Scarlett June 7, 2023 (8:32 am)

    More fantasizing from the  “law and order” commenters that more police, more enforcement, more jails are going to clean up Seattle and turn the clock back to the good ole days – that really never were, by the way.   Hate to break it to you all, but in case you’ve been living under a rock, this country is in a crisis and the problems go much deeper than band-aid solutions.   Yes, and we all better be worried about corporations like Amazon.   Seattle, for all its progressive “earthy” ethos has done more to encourage mass consumerism and concentrate retail clout into one company than any other city in the country.   Seattle’s “progressive” solution?  Demand that Amazon share some of the loot via taxes.  Good grief, this city is all smoke and mirrors.  

    • Gaslit June 7, 2023 (12:17 pm)

      So, your solution is to tax a corporation that has nothing to do with the legal bearing around controlled substances? The law was passed, the City Attorney’s office wanted to get a commitment from the city council to uphold settled law. 5 decided that they would they would refuse to support that commitment, so pretty much said that democracy and due process mean nothing to them. So, how is this looking backward again to expect more? 

      • Scarlett June 7, 2023 (7:25 pm)

        Due process?  Democracy?  Ease up on the Andy Griffith Show re-runs, because this isn’t Mayberry and in this country power and money determines how laws are made and who they are directed at.   Drug addicts are an easy target, not so much for leviathans like Amazon with its retinue of lawyers.  The Seattle City Council has the moral perogative to follow their conscience and decide whether this is a just state law in its local application.  This tradition has a long, long legal precedent, as well.  

      • John June 7, 2023 (8:11 pm)

        She has no solutions.Just tired platitudes from the Activist Playbook.

    • JP June 8, 2023 (10:30 pm)

      Good Grief, indeed. What on earth does Amazon’s “retail clout” have to do with the topic at large? What a strange, incoherent, hysterical position to take in response to this topic.

      • Scarlett June 10, 2023 (7:11 am)

        JP:   Strange that you would be peeved about bringing Amazon into the conversation and then pretend to be baffled.  We target drug users, for example, because they are easy targets and don’t have an arsenal lawyers like Amazon which engages in illegal, monopolistic business practices and is goes unscathed.   Laws are made by those with power and control and directed at those without power and control.   

      • Scarlett June 10, 2023 (8:36 am)

        Think about JP.  While you’re being offended on behalf of Amazon,  and pretending to be baffled, have you ever wondered why they skate free with their illegal business practices, while the less fortunate come under the thumb of laws and law enforcement?  

        • JP June 10, 2023 (7:40 pm)

          Is that you, Kshama?? Not pretending – genuinely baffled on the connection you attempted to draw between amending the city code on drug law and Amazon. It’s clearer to me now that you feel corporations are evil writ large and will find any opportunity to say so regardless of relevancy to the topic at hand. You appear to agree with the City Council’s decision. That’s fine. But the rant on consumerism/corporations/etc is tired and misplaced here.

  • Jeepney June 7, 2023 (12:16 pm)

    If only somehow the supply of drugs could be stopped, and the suppliers held accountable.

  • Sickened June 7, 2023 (4:59 pm)

    Marijuana is legal under Washington state law, but illegal under federal law. However, the feds don’t prosecute marijuana possession in Washington state. Is marijuana legal or illegal in Washington? Well, federal law supercedes state law, but no one in Seattle acts like marijuana is illegal. An attorney could argue that if there is no enforcement, marijuana is de facto legal. And, given there is a federal statute, an attorney could also argue that marijuana is illegal. That’s what attorneys do for a living: they argue about the law.  But this is a distraction. Right now, our city is a dysfunctional family that is arguing whether to do an intervention for our addicted relative, but instead we get sidetracked about who snubbed whom at the last family dinner. I don’t know the answer. But I do know that hundreds of our fellow residents died by overdose last year, and that is a crisis. It is an emergency. I wish we would start fighting our common enemy, which is drug addiction, rather than fight each other. Because the more we point fingers and argue, the more people die. 

  • The Earl June 7, 2023 (5:35 pm)

    Good thing there’s no correlation between increased drug use and overdoses with the permissiveness of the system.  Don’t even think about having a beer or smoking a cigarette in public 

  • Mrs. myrtle June 7, 2023 (7:20 pm)

    Can’t wait for the Lisa experiment to be over. 

  • Stephen June 7, 2023 (9:15 pm)

    I’m really disappointed with this “no” vote.  I think the council is out of step with the citizens they’re representing. 

    • J June 8, 2023 (5:53 am)

      It’s weird how we keep electing people who are “out of step” with the community, or maybe they’re in step with the community and angry people online are the ones who are out of step

  • CAM June 8, 2023 (6:16 pm)

    If anyone wants to know why Lisa Herbold voted against this, she has explained it fully here:

    I think most compelling of the reasons she lists is that the prosecutor asking to have this power given to them was completely unprepared during the debate to discuss how the new legislation would be implemented by her office and how it would impact resources.

     The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office has overseen prosecution of these kinds of cases for years. Because of that, it has clear policies about what cases they would charge, a functioning drug court already up and running, and a plan for diversion and treatment to help people struggling with addiction. 

     The Seattle City Attorney’s Office does not have this infrastructure. In fact, the Seattle City Attorney’s Office told the Seattle City Council it had not yet developed any policies around what the threshold would be for them filing charges against drug users, if they would use diversion resources to get people help, or detailed fiscal projections for how much it would cost to increase prosecutions or incarceration. 

    • Gaslit June 9, 2023 (6:34 am)

      Sorry, it isn’t Lisa Herbold or anyone on the City Council’s job to assess whether or not the CA’s office is or isn’t prepared to do their job. This is a classic feckless Herbold statement. She and her colleagues are clearly still upset that Davison beat their insane friend in an election. Seattle has a major drug prorblem. Sticking with the status quo as an outgoing lame duck representative shows her continued cowardice and uselessness she’s displayed since taking office. The final dig is the best, they’re going to form a workgroup and a task force. The Seattle Process has never had a greater advocate than Lisa Herbold. 

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