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Mayor Harrell Issues Executive Order Guiding Implementation of New Law Prohibiting Public Consumption of Drugs 

Seattle – Today, Mayor Bruce Harrell issued Executive Order 2023-006, guiding implementation and data collection related to the Public Safety and Health Response to the Opioid Crisis Ordinance prohibiting public consumption of fentanyl and other drugs. This follows Mayor Harrell’s April Executive Order addressing fentanyl and the synthetic drug crisis, part of the City’s dual public health and public safety approach to the issue, including advancing innovative treatment solutions to help people access services and get well. 

“Fentanyl and other dangerous drugs are killing people, causing harm, and creating unsafe conditions Downtown and in neighborhoods across Seattle. This law gives us another tool to help those in need access treatment and to keep sidewalks and neighborhoods welcoming for all residents, and my Executive Order provides needed implementation guidance and ensures we are collecting data to measure effectiveness,” said Mayor Bruce Harrell. “We are committed to learning lessons from the past, holding traffickers, dealers, and those causing the most harm accountable, and helping people access treatment and care through diversion services.” 

The Executive Order provides direction to officers on how to enforce the ordinance, including examples of how public use and possession can be established and factors that will guide the threat of harm assessment. The Executive Order makes clear that harm pertains to the impact on the ability of others to use shared public space and identifies areas that have a high likelihood of the presence of other community members and where the use of controlled substances impacts public safety and security.  

Mayor Harrell’s Executive Order also reaffirms that diversion is the preferred response to public use and possession offenses and sets expectations for how officers will handle situations where a threat of harm to others is not present. Mayor Harrell’s budget, announced earlier this week, includes millions toward diversion programs and efforts to provide treatment and curb overdose deaths. 

Lastly, the Executive Order calls for the collection of data to assess the scope of public use and possession of controlled substances to both better understand the problems facing the City and to create a baseline to measure the effectiveness of the ordinance and its enforcement. This includes analyzing data from Public Health — Seattle & King County, SPD, and other sources. 

The legislation passed by the Council and signed by Mayor Harrell will take effect next month. In effect, it will:  

  • Codify state law making public consumption of illegal drugs a gross misdemeanor in the City’s criminal code.   
  • For the first time in the City’s history, designate diversion and treatment as the preferred approach to addressing substance use issues – connecting people with care and responding to a public health crisis with evidence-based health solutions.   
  • Define a new threat of harm standard – differentiating between drug use that threatens others, recognizing the real and perceived danger of consumption of illegal drugs in public places, and aiming to support safe and welcoming neighborhoods by reducing public use. 

The ordinance, this Executive Order, and the forthcoming SPD policy are just one aspect of the City’s efforts to address the public health and safety concerns caused by synthetic narcotics. Building on the mayor’s April Executive Order, these efforts include: 

  • Launching the Seattle Fire Department’s Health 99 post-overdose response team focused on responding to overdoses and connecting those suffering from opioid use disorders to treatment and care. 
  • Investing $7 million toward treatment facilities that would provide post-overdose diversion, treatment, and medical care, increased casework and provider coordination, and day center services. 
  • Seattle Police Department continues to make arrests of dealers and traffickers, seizing an estimated 2 million fentanyl pills – enough to kill the entire city. 
  • Funding expanded mobile medication delivery for opioid use disorders and allocating ongoing funding to harm reduction providers. 
  • Initiating an innovative contingency management drug abatement program in cooperation with Plymouth Housing. 
  • Reinvesting in We Deliver Care to provide frontline care to those suffering from addiction in the downtown core. 

The Mayor’s Office established the Fentanyl Systems Work Group, which is working on better understanding and improving how the criminal legal system interacts with individuals suffering from addiction and substance use disorders. This includes assessing the diversion and treatment systems and evaluating a potential successor to community court. The City, via the Office of the City Auditor, is also engaged in an audit to assess best practices for place-based public safety interventions, specifically where there is open drug use.  


Councilmember Lisa Herbold 

“This executive order is a good first step. I appreciate the continued collaboration of Mayor Harrell. I especially look forward to reviewing the upcoming policies adopted by SPD, and receiving confirmation that those policies faithfully implement the shared objective of insuring that we are limiting both the arrest and the prosecution of people in the throes of addiction, in favor of a public health approach.” 

Seattle Police Chief Adrian Z. Diaz 

“SPD appreciates the guidance issued through the executive order and will be ready to implement policy and training consistent with its terms by the effective date of the ordinance.  We are committed to ensuring that enforcement efforts are equitable, treatment-focused, and evidence-based, but which also provides communities some respite from the chronic public harm that both the ordinance and the executive order acknowledge.” 

Lisa Daugaard, Co-Executive Director, Purpose Dignity Action 

“We’re at a moment in our drug policy history where awareness that the War on Drugs failed is crashing into the difficulty of standing up community-based alternatives to punitive responses. At the same time, the desperate conditions of many people who use drugs and are living unsheltered, and the unprecedented overdose death rate, are driving well-warranted public anxiety. We are fortunate that the City of Seattle is leaning into best practices and partnerships, using diversion to community-based care whenever possible, while recognizing that police can have a constructive role to play when they are the city employee on the scene and encounter a situation that must have a response. Mayor Harrell’s Executive Order provides clear guidance to utilize our existing, well-established diversion structures. PDA is committed to assisting throughout, and ensuring the divert-first vision is realized with optimal impacts for individuals, partners and neighborhoods.”