City Council passes law opening way for crackdown on public drug use in Seattle

(Image: SPD)

The Seattle City Council approved legislation Tuesday opening the way for a Seattle Police crackdown on public drug use on the city’s streets while doing more to emphasize diversion and treatment.

The 6-3 vote fell as expected with District 2 representative Tammy Morales, and District 3 leader Kshama Sawant joined by citywide councilmember Teresa Mosqueda in opposing the bill.

“There is real urgency to make critical investments to address the challenges facing people trapped in cycles of crisis, substance use, criminalization and housing instability, as well as genuine issues shared with me by frontline workers and neighbors impacted by the drug crisis,” Mosqueda said following Tuesday’s vote. “I have always advocated—and will continue to advocate—to address the root causes that lead to addiction, get neighbors the treatment they desperately need, and prevent public use. This bill, without expanding diversion capacity, won’t accomplish that.”

Sara Nelson, the other citywide rep on the council and sponsor of the original bill focused on City Attorney Ann Davison’s prosecution that was rejected by the council this summer, celebrated the passage. “The drug crisis we see playing out on our streets is the most crushing public health and safety issue of our time,” Nelson said. “We have a moral obligation to do everything within our power to reverse this devastating loss of life and associated community harms – including police intervention.”

Mayor Bruce Harrell said Tuesday he will sign the bill as soon as possible and issue an executive order to clarify how Seattle Police should enforce the new law after the council rejected an amendment Tuesday that would have directed an officer “to both make an assessment of threat of harm to others and make an attempt to divert when an individual only poses a threat of harm to themselves” under the new law. Continue reading

Pikes/Pines | A few things to chew on about Seattle’s magic mushrooms 🍄

UPDATE: We got a lot of feedback over the weekend about the original headline for this story — Seattle’s magic mushrooms ruined my life. Some people said it didn’t accurately portray what the Pikes/Pines nature post was about. Others were concerned readers would only see the headline and a negative portrayal of magic mushrooms. We settled on the original headline after agreeing it fit given the personal story of starting a natural history exploration of psilocybe mushrooms. But we agree that the headline can cause confusion and is getting in the way of a good episode of Pikes/Pines. We have updated the headline. Thanks and apologies for any frustrations.

A map of Psilocybe mushroom observations around Seattle illustrates their urban tendencies (Source: iNaturalist)

A wavy cap, indeed (Image: CHS)

It was a Friday, a weekend away from my 16th birthday, and I had permission to wander off after school with my friends. On this dry October evening, I sat astride monkey bars in a playground in Northeast Seattle while we waited to catch a bus. For some reason that is still a mystery to me, I decided to jump off my perch, but neglected to notice the length of metal tubing below. My face impacted steel before my feet touched the ground and the majority of my two main incisors disintegrated.

When I landed on the ground, I felt obvious pain, but I hadn’t really clocked the ramifications. That was until I looked up at my friends, who appeared to be imitating The Scream. Tentatively probing my jagged maw and realizing what I’d done, I uttered an extremely dramatic phrase for someone under their parent’s insurance and with access to modern dental care.

“I just ruined my life.”

Now, you’ve already jumped to conclusions based on the title of this article and assumed I was high. You’re wrong. I was stupid, had made a bad mistake, but I wasn’t high. But my friends were. They’d eaten mushrooms earlier that afternoon and had just watched what they described as “tracers” fly out of my mouth, and then heard me utter a phrase that haunted them for the rest of the weekend (and long into the future). While it’s reasonable to ponder if my imbibing would’ve helped me through this trauma (doubtful), I know being sober made calling my parents on my Nokia brick less terrifying. My friends caught the bus and ditched me and I didn’t blame them. We’re all still friends and are all reasonably well functioning adults, drugs aside.

For years after breaking my teeth, I was deeply suspicious of psychedelics despite using cannabinoids, alcohol, caffeine, and very rarely nicotine. In fact, I didn’t try mushrooms until fairly recently, when I had a lovely time sitting on a river bank watching birds, making willow branch wreaths, and taking photographs. Despite my reticence and an enjoyable first experience, I never once did I stop to consider the natural history of these mushrooms — many of which grow right here in Seattle. Continue reading

Seattle City Council debates $27M plan for Seattle drug crackdown, treatment and diversion — UPDATE

A Seattle City Council committee Tuesday morning will debate Mayor Bruce Harrell’s proposal for cracking down on public drug use while doing more to “emphasize diversion and health programs.”

The Public Safety and Human Services Committee session will take up and possibly vote on the proposed legislation raised in August after the Seattle City Council did not support an earlier proposal that officials said lacked adequate plans and resources to provide support for treating addiction and providing options beyond incarceration.

The Harrell administration proposal would shuffle $27 million in budgeted spending toward enhanced treatment facilities, new addiction services, and improved overdose response for first responders including $7 million this year in capital investments in facilities to provide services such as post-overdose care, opioid medication delivery, health hub services, long-term care management, and drop-in support. Continue reading

Study: The air on Seattle’s trains and buses is safe — and likely to contain meth and fentanyl

(Image: Sound Transit)

A University of Washington study of Seattle public transit in response to concerns about potential health risks to operators and riders found methamphetamine and fentanyl use is rampant on the city’s trains and buses but transit agencies say the results show it is safe to ride with “drug levels detected on public transportation extremely low.”

“Researchers detected methamphetamine in 98% of surface samples and 100% of air samples, while fentanyl was detected in 46% of surface and 25% of air samples,” the UW researchers report. “One air sample exceeded federal recommendations for airborne fentanyl exposure at work established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.”

“No similar guidelines exist for airborne methamphetamine,” the summary notes. Continue reading

‘Fentanyl Systems Work Group’ — Seattle leaders dig in on plan to shape new public drug use legislation that includes resources for treatment and diversion

(Image: City of Seattle)

After rushed legislation that lacked adequate resources for treatment and diversion failed at the Seattle City Council, the city’s leaders are reshaping efforts to crack down on public drug use and enable the city attorney to prosecute drug use and possession on Seattle’s streets.

Monday, Mayor Bruce Harrell appointed a 24-member work group “uniting the four corners of Seattle government” – the Mayor’s Office, Seattle City Council, Seattle Municipal Court, and Seattle City Attorney – along with officials from law enforcement, diversion programs, and service provision, and “other subject matter experts to advance effective and sustainable solutions addressing illegal drug use in public spaces.”

The new Fentanyl Systems Work Group is hoped to shape a more robust plan after legislation to move forward on a plan focused on City Attorney Ann Davison’s prosecution duties fell short in a narrow city council vote over the plan’s lack of investment in city resources for treatment and diversion and a history of drug enforcement that has consistently and disproportionately targeted people of color and the homeless.

“We are committed to addressing the deadly public health crisis playing out on our streets, holding dealers accountable for trafficking illegal drugs harming our communities, and advancing innovative health strategies to help those struggling with substance use disorder,” Harrell said in the announcement. Continue reading

City Council to vote on new law but is Seattle ready for a crackdown on drug use and possession on its streets? — UPDATE: Bill fails in 5-4 vote

Seattle Police have made drug busts for years — including this alleged dealer in an operation a decade ago downtown. The bill up for vote Tuesday could bring a crackdown on lower level drug crimes in the city. (Image: SPD)

The Seattle City Council will vote on a proposal Tuesday afternoon that would allow the city to do something it has never done before — prosecute drug use and possession on Seattle’s streets.

With a new state law in place making low level drug crimes in Washington a gross misdemeanor and giving the state a harder stance on drug law penalties, Tuesday’s vote would open the door to Seattle City Attorney Ann Davison’s plan to act on the new status of the crimes with the King County Prosecutor’s office already slammed with more serious drug dealing and felony cases.

The move could represent a major step away from decades of efforts to better address drugs and addiction through treatment and services.

Sponsored by Councilmembers Sara Nelson and Alex Pedersen, the bill would make possession of controlled substances and use of controlled substances in a public place a gross misdemeanor. It would codify the City Attorney’s responsibility for prosecuting gross misdemeanor drug use and possession in Seattle, a move that city council analysis says would produce an unknown increase in cases handled by the office — and costs related to the prosecution. Continue reading

Special session on crucial drug law begins in Olympia — UPDATE: Quick resolution with agreement on tougher penalties

Washington legislators are back at work in Olympia starting this week to pound out a new state drug possession law.

Gov. Jay Inslee called the special session after failed attempts during the regular legislative session to reach a compromise on overhauling how Washington handles drug possession, substance abuse, and addiction. A 2021 Washington Supreme Court ruling struck down the state’s felony drug possession statute. Continue reading

‘Drug market’ — Deadly shootings bring new urgency to community group’s calls for changes to west side of Cal Anderson Park

Nagle Place

Nagle Place

It is not known what progress the Seattle Police Department has made identifying suspects or a motive in the shooting deaths of brothers Ray and TT Wilford but the murders have brought new urgency to a Capitol HIll community group’s efforts to address safety and worries about drug dealing on the west side of Cal Anderson Park.

The Cal Anderson Park Alliance was already in the midst of a survey process to collect feedback about Nagle Place, the street that runs along the west edge of the park that has been given over mostly to parking and street disorder despite nearby development rising above it, when the latest shootings happened.

“For years, it’s been obvious that much of the violence in the park is related to the drug market on Nagle and the west edge of the park,” the CAPA group said in a statement to CHS in the wake of the deadly Saturday night that left 33-year-old and 29-year-old brothers dead. Continue reading

Seattle Fire Department announces naloxone donation as FDA approves over-the-counter Narcan

The Seattle Fire Department has received a donation that could save hundreds of lives after a national medicine nonprofit has given the department 1,000 dosages of intramuscular naloxone to help the city combat fentanyl and opioid overdoses. Meanwhile, a FDA decision will make Narcan-brand naloxone available over the counter by the end of summer meaning the overdose-reversing medicine can be sold on the shelves at pharmacies, grocery stores, and corner markets. Continue reading

Fentanyl test strips can help save lives — Here’s where to find them around Capitol Hill

Testing drugs for possible contamination is becoming more common, as fentanyl, a strong synthetic opioid, is to blame for many preventable deaths across the country. To get the strips on Capitol Hill, many are turning to community sources made up of local aid groups and neighborhood businesses.

According to King County Public Health, in 2021 there were 395 fentanyl related deaths — in 2015 there were 3.

Capitol Hill has seen its share of drug related deaths as counterfeit pills containing fentanyl and powdered drugs like cocaine and methamphetamines are having fentanyl mixed in without buyers knowing. There has also been a rise in fentanyl being ingested on the streets and on public transportation. Just a small amount of fentanyl can cause death. As 2022 began, health officials warned of a “cluster” of fentanyl deaths on Capitol Hill. More waves and ripples have continued.

If used correctly, fentanyl test strips can help detect fentanyl and fentanyl analogs before they’re consumed. Continue reading