Perhaps we see just what we want to see. I wonder, walking a section of blocks downtown, walking past the usual, what those legislators and some on our city council who oppose this week’s state legislature vote to make drug possession and public use of hard drugs classified as gross misdemeanors, actually see.
I’d recommend to the naysayers a short walk of their own — to see the folks who need help sprawled out, vacant-eyed in door fronts and alleys, to see the straws and folded foil used to suck in the fentanyl, to watch the money taken by the peddlers of this poison.
In all those walks over months now, I’ve seen all of it. I’ve talked to officers who told me that since the courts determined that possessing and using unlawful drugs could not be classified as a felony, all they could do was suggest treatment to users. Suggest, nothing more. So I ask again, how does that help the abuser, lost in addiction, and how does it help our downtown, our citizens who walk by the addiction clusters on a handful of downtown streets?
At least with the new state law, enforcement is possible, arrests are possible – not to jail offenders, let us hope, but to direct them to treatment. Enforcement ends the choice to keep on openly possessing and inhaling fentanyl and other illegal drugs; it means arrest and at least the chance of finding a path out of addiction. It means a safer and more welcoming downtown. With what’s been the status quo, almost no chance.
I’ve had enough of an approach that simply hasn’t worked. There’s a good bet I’m not the only one.