An initiative known as I-27, which would ban King County resources from funding drug consumption sites in the county, will not appear on the November ballot.
The initiative received enough signatures to qualify for a place on the ballot but the County Council voted at its Aug. 21 meeting to place I-27 on the February 2018 special election ballot instead.
Councilmember Kathy Lambert, who represents Redmond in District 3, proposed that the initiative be placed on the November election ballot, but this was voted down by the council.
As a follow-up measure, she also proposed a temporary ban on county resources going to fund the sites until the election, but this was also rejected by a majority of the council.
During the votes, a group of four citizens stood and started talking over the council.
“Why are our voices not being heard?” one woman asked.
The dramatic scene eased after a couple minutes as council Chair Joe McDermott called the protesters out of order.
Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles said placing the initiative on the November ballot before a scheduled Sept. 6 public meeting on it would circumvent the will of the voters and not allow adequate time for their input to be heard.
The deadline for placing initiatives on the November ballot came at the end of last week.
I-27 proposes a ban on safe drug consumption sites, including injections. A task force created by the council recommended two such sites along with various other harm reduction strategies to try and curb the wave of deadly overdoses that has hit the country in recent years.
The Capitol Hill neighborhood in Seattle has already taken steps to house one of these sites, and another location has not been selected.
The County Council has previously voted to only allow the other site to be established in a city that welcomes them.
In response, Bellevue, Federal Way and Auburn have voted to ban the sites in their jurisdictions.
Bothell City Councilmember Joshua Freed is a member of the I-27 group that got the initiative started this spring. He was at the meeting last Monday and expressed his disappointment.
“I think it’s a sad day in King County,” he said of the county’s decision not to place the measure on the November ballot.
Proponents of the injection sites say that since they will be monitored, they could help reduce overdoses.
At a community forum earlier this month, a member of the King County Heroin and Prescription Opiate Addiction Task Force which made the recommendations for the consumption sites, Lisa Daugaard, defended the sites as part of an overall plan.
“A safe consumption program recognizes that people use drugs, it does not approve of them, it does not positively value that,” she said in earlier coverage. “It is just a reality-based recognition.”
The sites are also supported by the American Medical Association and other groups across the nation which will be watching how they perform closely.
On top of providing supervised consumption to prevent overdoses, proponents also argue the sites will allow users easier access to medical and addiction professionals.