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Local governments acting as state drug possession law to end

SNOHOMISH COUNTY — A countywide drug possession and use law being introduced to the County Council this week would make it a gross misdemeanor to use drugs in public or be carrying illegal drugs.
In Councilman Nate Nehring’s county ordinance, prosecutors would be encouraged to divert cases for drug assessment and treatment versus sentencing violators to jail.
Police officers would also be able to divert violators into substance treatment instead of booking them into jail.
If the County Council approves, the county-level rule becomes effective July 1.
Governments are moving to establish local rules because the short-term statewide prohibition on drug possession expires July 1. No new law passed in the state Legislature to take its place.
Everett’s City Council, for example, will decide on a drug possession law this week. The penalty would be a gross misdemeanor, a penalty which is up to 364 days in jail. It is written to come into effect May 18 pending council approval. The city adjusted the penalty up from a simple misdemeanor last week.
Opponents to Everett’s open drug use law say to vote no because a law won’t suddenly interrupt drug users from using, but will cause drug users to do so in more hidden places. This could mean they’ll overdose in secluded areas such as neighborhood alleys and not be able to be seen to be saved with Narcan, a woman told the City Council last week.
Many local laws share the same basic rules: No using drugs in public view, including in private cars, and penalties if caught.
Among local cities, “the goal is for ordinances to be similar enough so there is not a patchwork” of rules and limitations, Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin said last week.
Some cities such as Marysville already have drug use laws on their books.
The state’s drug possession law is expiring because of an unintentional consequence of politicians not having consensus about the details.
A version of the bill with late revisions and modifications failed 43-55 on the final day that lawmakers were in session for 2023. A chunk of Democrats joined Republicans in voting against it. They said the changes went too soft to effectively reduce drug abuse. The last-minute modifications softened the penalty for public drug use to a simple misdemeanor from what was discussed to be a gross misdemeanor, and made it legal to possess “smoking supplies” such as paraphernalia. A simple misdemeanor is no more than 90 days in jail.

Related coverage:

Local governments act after state drug law fails in Legislature

SNOHOMISH COUNTY — Local legislators are lining up laws to make drug possession and use illegal locally after a statewide law didn’t clear the Legislature.

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