On Monday, March 8, 2021, the Marysville City Council adopted a new ordinance that makes it a gross misdemeanor to possess controlled substances without a prescription. The Council enacted this ordinance because of a recent ruling by the Washington State Supreme Court that struck down the state's law criminalizing controlled substances possession. The Supreme Court's ruling eliminated any criminal penalties for the possession of a controlled substance without a prescription and the authority of police officers to arrest persons possessing a controlled substance and obtain search warrants to search for controlled substances possessed without a prescription.
We know that the use of controlled substances without a prescription correlates with increased criminal activity, homelessness, and mental health issues. Stated Council President Kamille Norton, "The lack of criminal penalties for the possession of controlled substances without a prescription had the potential for an immediate, direct, and negative impact on the health, safety, and welfare of the City's residents and businesses. It was critical for us to act to close this loophole and provide the necessary tools for our Police officers."
At Marysville, the City has taken steps to address these problems through teaming police officers with social workers and mental health professionals and the municipal court's Mental Health Alternatives Program (MAP). The absence of any criminal penalties for such possession would reduce the effectiveness of the City's initiatives in teaming with social workers and mental health professionals and the MAP Court by eliminating incentives for individuals to enter treatment or obtain necessary social services.
Mayor Jon Nehring praised the Council's action approving the ordinance. “I commend the City Council for its swift action to address this vacuum and provide the necessary tools for our officers,” said Mayor Nehring. "In Marysville we lead with compassion when it comes to cases involving substance abuse. It is critical to also have consequences available for our police officers and court to hold people accountable for their criminal actions against a community member or business.”
Following the ordinance's approval, Police Chief Erik Scairpon expressed his appreciation of the Council's action. "I appreciate as the Police Chief that our elected officials and the community of Marysville are committed to ensuring our police officers have the tools to address substance abuse and help guide people towards treatment and rehabilitation. Our embedded social worker program has already assisted over 100 people in becoming sober and helped provide housing for over 211 people. We also offer services to incarcerated individuals at the Marysville Jail. This approach's strength is providing compassion while having a consequence available for those who refuse services and continue to commit crimes and victimize our community."