A ballot measure banning safe consumption sites will not appear on the February ballot.
King County Superior Court Judge Veronica Galvan ruled today that the initiative exceeds the scope of local initiative authority and cannot go to the ballot. The ruling comes after a group of safe consumption site advocates sued over the ballot measure, arguing that county health policy cannot be determined by public vote.
Galvan writes that the initiative is "invalid, null, and void" in its entirety. "Our Supreme Court has recognized the broad authority public health authorities have in protecting public health and addressing responses to public health crisis," Galvan writes. "Accordingly, I-27 in its entirety extends beyond the scope of the local initiative power."
In a statement, Bob Wood, the former director of the HIV/AIDS Program at Public Health-Seattle and King County, called the ruling "a major victory for public health."
"If I-27 was allowed to go to the ballot, other critically important and effective public health policies would also have been put at risk, including needle exchange programs, or even vaccination requirements," Wood said.
The King County Council, meanwhile, is still discussing a possible additional ballot measure that would endorse opening two safe consumption sites. UPDATE: The county council voted 5-4 today to send an alternative measure to the ballot if I-27 later appears before voters. The measure was intended to appear alongside I-27 in February. With today’s court ruling, the council amended it to appear on whatever future ballot I-27 ends up on in case today’s court ruling is overturned on appeal. In the vote, several council members argued that safe consumption sites would enable drug users. They proposed amendments adding requirements to future sites, including that they be within a certain distance of transit or social service providers, but those amendments failed. The council members who supported the measure emphasized research showing the sites can save people from fatal overdoses. “Some people want to continue the status quo,” said Council Member Jeanne Kohl-Welles. “That’s not working.”