SEATTLE — Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell will meet with a group of city and community leaders on Monday regarding the city's current stance on drug possession.
The group of leaders will include members of the System Design Work Group. The goal of the meeting will be to define solutions, improve system coordination, and develop implementation strategies, according to the city of Seattle.
Harrell will also discuss the next steps and coming efforts to align the Seattle Municipal Code with state law on public use of illegal drugs.
On June 6, the Seattle City Council voted 5-4 to reject an ordinance that makes drug possession a gross misdemeanor. Without it, the King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office will have the sole authority to prosecute drug-related crimes.
However, under Washington state law RCW 39.34.180, having the county prosecute misdemeanor crimes that are a city’s responsibility would require a contract to be negotiated and approved, including funding for that work.
The failed legislation, sponsored by Councilmembers Sara Nelson and Alex Pedersen, aimed to "codify" the law and has the backing of Seattle City Attorney Ann Davison.
The legislation, if passed, would have given Davison and her office the power to prosecute these cases and, or push for treatment. The bill would have also made the knowing possession and public use of illegal drugs a gross misdemeanor.
Prior to the city council vote, King County Prosecutor Leesa Manion sent a letter of clarification to council members and Harrell, urging them to pass the ordinance, adding that the city attorney and police need the ability to enforce this.
The process for this specific legislation was fairly uncommon. Usually, city council ordinances have to go through smaller committee votes before they are presented for a full and final decision.
The new state drug law goes into effect on July 1.