Initiative to ban safe injection sites may be too late for November ballot | KUOW News and Information

Initiative to ban safe injection sites may be too late for November ballot

Jul 26, 2017

Plans to open safe consumption sites for drug users in King County may soon be subject to a public vote. 

Opponents say they've collected nearly 70,000 signatures, more than enough to get an initiative banning such sites on the ballot.

But when that initiative, Initiative 27, might appear on the ballot remains unclear.

The signatures were submitted to the county this week, but they still have to be processed in order for the measure to make it in front of voters this November.

That means they have to be counted, a 3 percent sample has to be thoroughly vetted and verified, and, if the signatures are deemed sufficient, the initiative must then go before the county council.

And all of this would have to happen before an August 1st deadline. King County officials say that's a tall order.

"I mean it's definitely an incredibly tight timeline," said Kendall Hodson, spokeswoman for King County elections.

"So I don't want to say it's impossible but this is definitely far less time than we would allot for something like this, especially given that we've got ballots coming in all the time for a pretty important primary election that we're trying to process."

Hodson said the measure would go on the February ballot if the signatures are not processed in time for November.

Joshua Freed is the head sponsor of the initiative, and a Bothell City Councilmember.

He said a delay would be disappointing.

"We want to make sure that these government run injection sites are prevented in King County. So if King County does push this to the February ballot, we want to make sure they put a hold on any facilities being opened this year. Because the people really need to have an opportunity to speak on this issue," Freed said.

Freed said offering medical supervision for users at safe injection sites will only encourage drug use. 

Initiative 27 would mandate “no public funds may be spent on the registration, licensing, construction, acquisition, transfer, authorization, use, or operation of a supervised drug consumption site.”

It would also make it illegal to operate or maintain a building for the purpose of drug use.

Freed agrees with King County officials that the growing heroin and opioid epidemic needs to be addressed. But he says it should be addressed through treatment, not through the use of safe consumption sites. 

A task force has recommended two such sites be opened in King County.

Officials say the facilities would help prevent overdoses and save lives. They say it would also help to cut down on public consumption and discarded needles.