February 14, 2017
Attorney General Jeff Sessions
U.S. Department of Justice 950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20530-0001
Dear Honorable Jeff Sessions:
I am writing to bring your attention to an urgent matter impacting the citizens of Washington State, and requesting your immediate intervention. I believe the actions of King County, Washington have the potential to set a dangerous precedent in the United States, in violation of federal law.
As you know, there is an opioid epidemic sweeping our nation. The explosion of deaths associated with prescription opioid misuse and heroin is unacceptable. This is a time to focus on developing ways to help connect people with treatment, and educating our communities about the dangers of illicit drug use. Instead of helping, King County is promoting a culture of toleration, diverting precious resources away from treatment, and using an ideological platform to build a permissive society.
This month, a task force endorsed by the King County Council, local health department, and King County Prosecuting Attorney, is moving forward to develop two so-called “safe consumption sites”. The sites are no-judgment zones, with no enforcement of current drug laws. Users of illegal drugs may enter the sites, get high, and in the case of an overdose, be treated with life-saving Naloxone. I believe this is in direct conflict with federal law. Specifically, 21 U.S.C. 856 establishes maintaining drug-involved premises as an unlawful act, and provides criminal and civil penalties associated with violations.
One of the publicized models of injection sites is located in Vancouver, British Columbia, where the injection sites were implemented in 2003, nearly 14 years ago. These sites have failed, and overdose deaths have skyrocketed in the region. In 2016, illicit drug overdoses claimed the lives of 914 people in British Columbia, making 2016 the deadliest overdose year on record, and representing an increase of almost 80 percent over 2015 death rates. The evidence is strong. The injection sites have been operating for a considerable period, and are clearly not working.
This is a public health crisis. Government-sanctioned facilitation of addicts to abuse illegal drugs is not compassionate, and it does not solve the problem. To this end, I have introduced legislation in the Washington State Senate, SB 5223, concerning safe injection sites in Washington State, in efforts to stop what is happening in King County. We must celebrate those who seek treatment and provide them with the appropriate services to be successful. The injection sites would be taking away resources from treatment beds and other medically proven efforts. Further, it is reasonable to believe once the doors to injection sites open, they will continue to spread to other parts of our state, and eventually to other communities across our nation.
Creation of drug injection sites is part of a broader effort to decriminalize and normalize illegal drug use. I request your immediate intervention into the unconscionable actions of King County, Washington. If I may be of assistance in any way, please do not hesitate to contact me. Thank you for your time and attention to this important matter.
Washington State Senator
Chair, State Government Committee
Cc: The Honorable Chuck Grassley, Chairman, Senate Committee on the Judiciary
The Honorable Bob Goodlatte, Chairman, House Judiciary Committee
The Honorable Patty Murray, United States Senate, Washington State
The Honorable Maria Cantwell, United States Senate, Washington State
The Honorable Suzan DelBene, United States House of Representatives, Washington State
The Honorable Pramila Jayapal, United States House of Representatives, Washington State
The Honorable Adam Smith, United States House of Representatives, Washington State
The Honorable Dave Reichert, United States House of Representatives, Washington State