The Seattle City Council has passed a resolution to criminalize the use of controlled substances in public spaces, as reported by local broadcaster KIRO7. The new legislation, known as CB 120645, was approved on Tuesday and adds public drug use and the "knowing possession" of controlled substances to the existing list of criminal offenses in the city.
The decision comes after a proposed ordinance was passed on September 12 by the Public Safety and Human Services Committee of the Seattle City Council, with a 4-1 majority vote. While the ruling allows for the possibility of arrest for public drug use, there is still a significant push to channel drug users into rehabilitation programs as an alternative.
The initiative has caused a rift among residents, with opinions deeply divided on the matter.
“There is no budget to support this and there is no plan, no care, compassion or commitment to do anything other than imprison our most vulnerable citizens,” said one woman during the public comment section during a committee meeting.
Many expressed support for the measure.
“Restoring a safe and welcoming environment downtown will bring back residents, workers and visitors, increase the momentum needed to get downtown on a sustained path to recovery,” said one man.
Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda argued that the legislation failed to adequately focus on diversion initiatives.
“I want people to get access to public health services just as much as the people who testified in support of this legislation say they want. But that is not what this legislation does. And without the funding that is purported to come with this bill, we have no assurances that there will be alternative structures and programs and diversion strategies to prevent people from going to jail. We do not have to pass this legislation,” she said.