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City of Seattle
Ed Murray, Mayor

SUBJECT: Holmes' statement on Operation Crosstown Traffic

4/23/2015  12:00:00 PM
Kimberly Mills  (206) 684-8602

I’ve supported ending the War on Drugs for my entire public service career, and I’m pleased to join with the Mayor, Police Chief, U.S. Attorney, FBI and County Prosecutor in furtherance of that goal. I was a proud leader in Washington’s pioneering effort to end marijuana prohibition and replace it with a legal, regulated and taxed system for producing, processing and sale to adults. For hard drugs like heroin, meth and crack, I support an approach involving graduated enforcement based on harm reduction, using a range of incentives and sanctions tailored to individuals, their histories and their records.

Legalizing and regulating marijuana and using harm reduction tools to address hard drug addiction does not mean standing by as the heart of our downtown continues for years to house a large-scale, outdoor market for illegal drug sales. Smarter public policies on drugs never meant that we have to accept open-air drug markets. The approach we’re taking now is an effort to strike the balance necessary to enforce the law and clean up downtown without falling back into the wasteful and counterproductive cycle of the War on Drugs. We’ve identified more than 100 suspects as selling hard drugs, and rather than treat them all the same way, I’m pleased to be working with my federal and county colleagues and our own police department to treat them as individuals—with approaches ranging from federal felony charges to diversion to Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD).

We’ve also identified nearly 40 suspects who sold marijuana on the street in the 9½-block area. This is illegal, and not what I-502 promised. We have 10 licensed I-502 stores open in Seattle today, and more on the way. I-502 promised to displace illegal sales, both from the street and from brick and mortar stores. I support that promise. The marijuana dealing suspects with the most serious records are being charged by the U.S. Attorney, the County Prosecutor is charging others, and I’ve agreed to charge those with the least extensive records with misdemeanor street vending or drug traffic loitering where possible based on our City code. Some will also be LEAD-eligible. The suspects I’m charging will be given the opportunity to avoid criminal convictions if they stay out of trouble and don’t enter the 9½ blocks for two years.

My priorities for this operation are to shut down the illegal drug markets—both for hard drugs and for marijuana—in this critical area and to send the message that legalizing and regulating marijuana means that adults can buy it in state-licensed stores, not on the street. I also want to be clear that we’re working on enforcement actions against brick and mortar stores and delivery services that operate without state licenses and sell to people who aren’t medical marijuana patients, as well as street dealing outside the 9½ blocks. But today’s actions are about these 9½ blocks, not broader citywide issues, so stay tuned for more on marijuana enforcement in the coming months.

Making I-502 work, working with the state to implement the legislation just passed in Olympia harmonizing the recreational and medical marijuana systems, and shutting down the illegal marijuana and hard drug markets are priorities for me—just as it would be a priority for me to shut down an illegal, unlicensed alcohol market if one existed to this extent. My goal is to close these markets. Criminal charges are just one set of tools available to us, and I support employing a range of approaches for a range of suspects. I also firmly believe that non-criminal harm reduction programs like LEAD are critical parts of this effort. We need to shut down this drug market, and we need to remember that we’re dealing with unique individuals as we’re doing that. I’m committed to this effort and committed to doing everything we can to make Seattle a safe, fair and humane city for all of its residents and visitors.

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