The Renton City Council on May 22 unanimously passed a revised version of a policy prohibiting public drug use just a week after it was first introduced.
After the council conducted the first reading of Ordinance No. 6112 regarding the regulation of dangerous drugs on May 15, the state Legislature passed Second Engrossed Second Substitute Senate Bill 5536 and Gov. Jay Inslee signed it into law.
On May 22, the council passed a revised version of Ordinance No. 6112, the updated version was designed with consideration of Second Engrossed Second Substitute Senate Bill 5536 to prevent the ordinance from conflicting with the new state law or becoming redundant.
Whereas the first version of Ordinance No. 6112 made drug possession a gross misdemeanor with a maximum fine of $5,000 and a maximum jail sentence of 364 days, the revised ordinance is in-line with what Senate Bill 5536 stipulates — making drug possession a gross misdemeanor with a maximum fine of $1,000 and a maximum jail sentence of 180 days for the first two convictions, and 364 days thereafter.
While the first version of Renton’s ordinance had language penalizing the possession of “drug paraphernalia,” Senate Bill 5536 specifically restricts local governments like the City of Renton from separately regulating drug paraphernalia. Instead, the revised version of the ordinance prohibits negligent handling of dangerous drugs and “drug waste” to protect the public against accidental contact or exposure to dangerous drugs.
While the original version of the ordinance broadly defined drug “use” to include not just consumption, but a wider array of activities that are carried out in an attempt to use, manufacture, or exchange dangerous drugs in a public place, Senate Bill 5536 makes it a crime to use drugs in public, but narrowly defines “use” as actual consumption of dangerous drugs. To arrest for this crime, the consumption would need to occur in the presence of the arresting officer, according to the city.
According to the city’s ordinance, the changes are set to take place within 30 days of its adoption. Most of Senate Bill 5536’s provisions take effect either July 1 or 90 days after passage.