The Spokane City Council in a unanimous vote, approved an emergency ordinance which outlawed the knowing possession of illegal drugs and their use in public spaces. A coalition of business associations including the Downtown Spokane Partnership (DSP), Greater Spokane Incorporated (GSI), and Visit Spokane among others asked that the Council act in response to the state legislature’s failure to pass a state-wide law with similar provisions. The coalition supported provisions first proposed by Councilmembers Cathcart and Bingle in their “Safe Open Spaces” ordinance that would outlaw the open use of drugs in public spaces, then later supported the proposed “Unauthorized Use and Possession Ordinance” which included provisions from Cathcart and Bingle’s “Safe Open Spaces.”
According to Emilie Cameron, President and CEO of the Downtown Spokane Partnership, “Spokane has taken a significant step to address the concerns of residents, employees and visitors worried for their personal health and safety. City Council’s unanimous support for the urgent implementation of this ordinance, with key policies that address the impacts of illegal drugs, provide effective tools to keep everyone safe while also addressing the necessity to treat individuals with substance use disorder in our community.”
The coalition collected 768 signatures in support of policies adopted in the final ordinance with many still believing that a state-wide approach is needed. “We worked hard during this legislative session to get a state-wide solution to replace the current drug law, which expires at the end of next month” said Alisha Benson, CEO of Greater Spokane Incorporated. “Ultimately, we want to avoid a patchwork approach to possession laws and ensure people who need help have access to services. I’m proud that Spokane City Council was able to step up and get this ordinance passed in the meantime.”
The coalition of business associations supporting the ordinance includes: DSP, GSI, Visit Spokane, East Spokane Business Association, and the local chapters of the Washington Hospitality Association and the Building Owners and Managers Association.