This week, Governor Newsom vetoed a bill that would have legalized “safe injection sites” in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Oakland. The program would have provided space, employed clinical workers, and provided harm reduction supplies and services for people who use injected drugs like heroin.
The centers would also offer a pathway to recovery, with information on drug treatment, access to MAT, and other necessary addiction recovery resources.
What Would The Injection Site Legislation Entail?
The legislation would have legalized supervised injection sites in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Oakland. The program, meant to provide safety and help prevent overdoses, would have been in place through 2027, when the bill would need to be passed again. Fentanyl, a drug that has caused the bulk of overdoses throughout the past few years, could have been tested for at the sites.
Users would still bring their illegally-purchased drugs into a hygienic, safe environment. The staff could react quickly to overdoses, and users could obtain fentanyl testing kits to stop fatal overdoses. Naloxone, the overdose-reversal drug, would be supplied to whoever needed it. Many people who think they are using Oxycontin or heroin have accidentally overdosed on fentanyl in the past few years.
Why The Veto?
In recent months, underground injection sites have already been operating within the harm reduction community. Politicians say these services have attracted homeless encampments, where disease, drug abuse, rats, and other public health issues have multiplied.
In the Tenderloin neighborhood, long known for its drug use epidemic, people line the streets outside burnt-out buildings in the heat. The causes for these scenes are many. However, drug use is almost always a factor in people’s misery. One in five overdose deaths in San Francisco occurred in the Tenderloin district in the past year, and Mayor London Breed (D) declared a state of emergency last December.
People who oppose harm reduction say there will be visible drug use on the streets because the need is so great. The centers would not be able to allow enough clients to keep the drug use out of sight. Conservative voices say that lax drug policy is what has caused overdoses and homelessness to skyrocket.
Harm Reduction Not Off The Table
Newsom said in a letter to the state Senate that he was concerned about “the unlimited number of safe injection sites that this bill would authorize” and speculated they could lead to unintended consequences, such as crowds of addicted persons waiting in line or resorting to shooting up drugs outside.
“It is possible that these sites would help improve the safety and health of our urban areas, but if done without a strong plan, they could work against this purpose,” he wrote of the bill.
Five years ago, Governor Jerry Brown vetoed similar legislation.