Letting Seattle voters decide whether to ban safe-injection sites would infringe on the power of the county health board, Judge Veronica Alicea-Galván ruled Monday, the Seattle Times reports. The ruling, if upheld on appeal, would knock the I-27 initiative off the February special-election ballot. It is a victory for advocates of safe-injection sites, who want to open facilities in the county where drug users could inject under medical supervision. “I’m completely shocked about this ruling,” said state Sen. Mark Miloscia. “To say this drug epidemic is a public-health crisis and therefore it’s immune from the public having a say in it is completely unprecedented and wrong.” I-27 sought to ban public funding for safe-injection sites and thwart the recommendations of a county opioid-addiction task force last year.
The task force report cited research on a long-operating safe-injection site in Vancouver, B.C., showing that medical supervision reduced overdoses and infections from HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C. The opioid task force recommended one site in Seattle and one in an undetermined King County location. These proposed safe-injection sites have been controversial — many cities in King County have voted to ban them. The I-27 campaign gathered more than 47,000 signatures. Those who brought the lawsuit against I-27, formed under a group called Protect Public Health, welcomed the ruling. “We don’t think public initiatives ought to overrule policies and recommendations that have been made through the appropriate processes,” said Dr. Bob Wood, former director of the HIV/AIDS Program at Public Health-Seattle & King County.