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Washington Supreme Court blocks initiative to ban safe injection sites in King County

Washington's Supreme Court justices published an opinion Thursday upholding a superior court judge's ruling to block Initiative 27 from King County voters. I-27 would ban safe injection sites.

The Washington Supreme Court upheld a judge's ruling Thursday to keep Initiative 27 off of the King County ballot.

I-27 would stop the creation of a safe injection site within King County, prohibit anyone from supervising a building built to be a consumption site, and punish anyone who violates the initiative.

"We affirm the superior court and hold that I-27 is outside the scope of local initiative power because it improperly interferes with the budgetary authority of the King County Council (Council)," the court's opinion said. "Therefore, the superior court properly enjoined I27 from the King County ballot."

The state Supreme Court agrees with King County Superior Court Judge Veronica Alicea Galvan's decision on October 27 that the initiative interferes with the King County Council's budgetary authority, and therefore outside the scope of the initiative's power.

“I-27 in its entirety extends beyond the scope of the local initiative power,” Galvan wrote in the ruling.

Judge Galvan cited Washington state law, which says local legislative bodies have the authority to determine budgets, and I-27 “impinges” on legislative authority of the county.

The King County Board of Health approved a recommendation in January 2017 to open two safe injection sites, which would allow people to consume drugs under medical supervision.

Seattle is the only city to approve the installation of a safe injection site but has yet to select a location. Dozens of other cities in the area have banned such sites within city limits.

King County Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles said she believes the ruling will allow for Seattle to open a mobile location, but acknowledged she has not heard of another county municipality that would like one.

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Joshua Freed with Safe King County proposed the initiative and addressed the Supreme Court justices in September.

"I hope they (justices) are on the side of the voters, allowing the voters to have a say," Freed told reporters outside of the Temple of Justice in Olympia.

Freed said the King County Council is essentially legalizing heroin and thinks the public should decide if that is a good idea.

"As a government of 'we the people,' we should have an ability to say what happens in our backyards," said Freed.

Freed told KING 5 Thursday that he and his supporters have not ruled out filing a statewide initiative to put the issue to voters.