On December 2nd, nurses and doctors staged a protest called a “die-in” at Seattle City Hall to show their support for the initiation of safe injection sites in Seattle, places where people with drug addictions could ingest drugs under supervised medical care. The medical professionals were all part of a new organization called “Health Care Workers for Supervised Consumption Spaces,” and they argue that supervised sites could not only reduce overdose fatalities dramatically but also offer a resource for those struggling with addiction to gain access to medical care and eventually pathways to recovery.
Drug overdose in Seattle is a growing concern with 156 people in King County overdosing in 2014 alone, a 60% rise from the year before. Safe injection sites also aim to reduce the public consumption of drugs, publicly discarded dirty needles, and the spread of HIV and other bloodborne pathogens. Currently, firefighters are called to respond to the rising number of overdose emergencies, diverting them from other calls.
In September 2016, the King County Heroin Crisis Task Force officially recommended two safe injection sites in Seattle, one within the city limits and one outside. At the sites, people would be able to ingest any illegal drug. The clinics would not provide anyone with any drugs, but only supervise their consumption. The only such site in North America operates in Vancouver, where it has been running since 2003 with thousands of overdoses and zero deaths. Australia and the Netherlands have operated similar sites for over a decade.
Currently, in the state of Washington, possession of a controlled substance or drug (not including marijuana) is punishable as a class C felony, which carries a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines. However, in 2010, Washington state legislature passed a law which protects people experiencing drug-related overdoses. The law states that those people experiencing drug-related overdoses will not be charged or prosecuted for possession if they call on emergency services. In addition, the law protects an individual who calls emergency services for someone else experiencing an overdose.
According to the intent of the law, this measure was put into effect because Washington is one of sixteen states in which drug overdose surpasses car crashes to be the number one cause of unintentional injury death. This law hopes to reduce the number of fatalities from drug overdoses. It states that “many drug overdose fatalities occur because peers delay or forego calling 911 for fear of arrest or police involvement, which researchers continually identify as the most significant barrier to the ideal first response of calling emergency services.” If people are afraid of prosecution for drug possession, they are less likely to reach out for help.
If you have been charged with a drug-related crime, you deserve quality representation by a knowledgeable lawyer. Call the Law Offices of Steve Karimi today at (206) 621-8777 or contact us online to set up an appointment and let us start preparing your defense.