This page provides information on drug nuisances for local governments in Washington State, including state statutes, examples of local ordinances, and related resources. It is part of MRSC's series on various types of nuisances.
Statutes and Regulations
Injunctions - Legal Process to Close Buildings Used for Illegal Drug Activity
Drugs, from a personal or criminal law perspective, are frequently more than a nuisance: the abuse of illegal drugs can destroy lives and families. In the neighborhood context, however, illegal drug use can have many of the same impacts as other nuisances. Housing values can be lessened and the quality of life in the area can go downhill, particularly for those who want to live in a peaceful environment that is safe for children.
The state legislature adopted drug nuisance laws, Chapter 7.43 RCW, in 1988. These laws provide cities and counties with tools to combat illegal drug activity by authorizing civil actions in superior court to close buildings or units in buildings that are being used in connection with the sale of illegal drugs. The statutes provide that the court must, upon finding that a drug nuisance exists, order that the building or unit within the building be closed for a period of one year (RCW 7.43.080 and RCW 7.43.090). A drug nuisance is defined by RCW 7.43.010 as follows:
(1) Every building or unit within a building used for the purpose of unlawfully manufacturing, delivering, selling, storing, or giving away any controlled substance as defined in chapter 69.50 RCW, legend drug as defined in chapter 69.41 RCW, or imitation controlled substances as defined in chapter 69.52 RCW, and every building or unit within a building wherein or upon which such acts take place, is a nuisance which shall be enjoined, abated, and prevented, whether it is a public or private nuisance.
(2) As used in this chapter, "building" includes, but is not limited to, any structure or any separate part or portion thereof, whether permanent or not, or the ground itself.
Any property where a drug nuisance exists may be subject to abatement under Chapter 7.43 RCW, including apartment buildings, motels, hotels, taverns, stores, and private residences. If a pervasive drug nuisance problem is demonstrated, the courts do not hesitate to utilize the full force of the statute. However, if the level of drug related criminal activity is not "overwhelming," or if the evidence shows that the building owner has been taking reasonable efforts to deal with the problems, the courts can allow a building or apartment to remain occupied. This is especially true in situations involving apartment complexes where innocent tenants may be displaced during a closure, and in situations involving hotels or motels operated by businessmen and women as their sole source of income.
In order to expedite the abatement of drug-related building nuisances, the legislature gave these civil actions priority over most other civil proceedings (RCW 7.43.050). The threat of speedy abatement has made it relatively easy for city enforcement officials to get the attention and cooperation of apartment building owners. Because Chapter 7.43 RCW provides full authority to file drug nuisance enforcement actions in superior court, cities and counties do not need to pass any local ordinances before using the state statutory authority to commence an enforcement action.
Sample Ordinance Provisions
Note: Initiative 502 specifically allows licensed marijuana retailers to sell drug paraphernalia. Ordinances addressing drug paraphernalia may need to be amended.
- Black Diamond Ordinance No. 13-1002 - Relating to controlled substances amending sections affected by Initiative 502, adopted 06/2013
- Bremerton Ch. 9.08 - Drug Offenses
- Seattle Municipal Code Ch. 12A.20 - Controlled Substances
- Spokane Municipal Code Ch. 10.15 - Offenses Involving Drugs
- Tacoma Municipal Code Ch. 8.28 - Narcotics
- Richland Ordinance NO. 01-13 amends Title 9, Chapters 9.10 Marijuana, and 9.11 Drug Paraphernalia, of the Richland Municipal Code to comply with the passage of Washington Initiative 502
- Richland Municipal Code Sec. 9.16.160 - Abatement of Drug Houses and Related Nuisances
Drug Task Force Programs
- Byrne JAG Drug-Gang Task Force, Washington State Department of Commerce
- Clark-Vancouver Regional Drug Task Force
- Columbia River Drug Task Force, Chelan and Kittitas Counties
- Interagency Narcotics Enforcement Team, Grant County
- Metro Drug Task Force - The Metro Drug Task Force is a federally funded unit comprised of Tri-City area law enforcement agencies that target higher-level drug dealers in the region.
- North Central Washington Drug Task Force, Ferry and Okanogan Counties
- Quad Cities Drug Task Force, Asotin and Whitman Counties in Washington
- Snohomish Regional Drug Task Force, Snohomish County
- Thurston County Narcotics Task Force - A multi-jurisdictional partnership between the Lacey Police Department, the Olympia Police Department, the Tumwater Police Department, the Thurston County Sheriff's Office, the Thurston County Prosecutor's Office, the Washington State Patrol, and the Washington State National Guard
- Tri-Cities Metro Drug Task Force, Benton and Franklin Counties
- West Sound Narcotics Enforcement Team “WestNET”, Kitsap and Mason Counties
Crime Free Programs - Drugs in Housing
Programs to Curtail Drug Labs and Lab Cleanups