Barring a successful appeal, Initiative 27, which would have allowed voters to block supervised consumption sites in King County, will not appear on the February ballot.
King County Superior Court Judge Veronica Alicea-Galvan ruled on Monday afternoon that I-27 "extends beyond the scope of the local initiative," and would break state law that grants decision-making authority to the Board of Health and King County Council on public health policies.
"Our Supreme Court has recognized the broad authority public health authorities have in protecting public health and addressing responses to public health crisis," Alicea-Galvan wrote in the filing, citing a former case in 1992 that allowed the Spokane County Health District to create its needle exchange program.
The court held a hearing on the lawsuit by public health advocates against the initiative on Friday. Alicia-Galvan sided with Knoll Lowney—attorney for Protect Public Health, the organization filing the lawsuit—who argued that the state allows council members to have legislative authority over public health decisions.
A King County heroin and opiate task force recommended the safe injection sites as part of a plan to combat overdose deaths—officials are looking to implement two sites at overdose hotspots, one in Seattle and one somewhere else in the county.
“This is a major victory for public health, and will allow us to take the steps we need to implement an effective harm reduction approach to help those suffering from addiction to get the help that they need.” said Dr. Bob Wood, the former Director of the HIV/AIDS Program at Public Health-Seattle & King County.
Proponents of I-27 have the option to appeal the decision to the Court of Appeals. King County council members in a 5-4 vote Monday also approved an alternative to go on the ballot in the event that the Court of Appeals takes the case and reverses the decision to allow I-27.
The alternative option allows voters to approve the supervised consumption sites and was approved by council chair Joe McDermott and council members Jeanne Kohl-Welles, Rod Dembowski, Larry Gossett, and Claudia Balducci.