California's Governor Gavin Newsome Vetoes Bill Proposing Drug Injection Sites
Allen J. Schaben
On August 22, Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill that would have allowed safe sites for drug injection to open in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Oakland. Newsom rejected the bill, expressing worry that the proposed law could further exacerbate the drug crisis in the three cities.
“I am returning Senate Bill 57 without my signature,” the Governor penned in a public message to the Senate and his constituents. “I am acutely concerned about the operations of safe injection sites without strong, engaged local leadership and well-documented, vetted, and thoughtful operational and sustainability plans.”
If Senate Bill 57 had passed, it would’ve meant that the the three California cities would have been among of the first in the nation to open and operate safe drug consumption facilities staffed by personnel trained in reversing overdoses. These facilities would have allowed users to consume illegal drugs in a clean, supervised setting.
“The unlimited number of safe injection sites that this bill would authorize — facilities which could exist well into the later part of this decade — could induce a world of unintended consequences,” he wrote. “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. Worsening drug consumption challenges in these areas is not a risk we can take. We should strive to ensure our innovative efforts are well planned, even when they start as pilots, to help mitigate the potential for unintended impacts.”
In lieu of approving the bill, the governor shared his plans to convene city and county officials to discuss best practices for safe and sustainable overdose prevention programs led by the Secretary of Health and Human Services.
“I remain open to this discussion when those local officials come back to the Legislature with recommendations for a truly limited pilot program - with comprehensive plans for siting, operations, community partnerships, and fiscal sustainability that demonstrate how these programs will be run safely and effectively,” he stated.
Senator Scott Wiener originally introduced the bill and has since called the Governor's veto “tragic.” Multiple studies have proven that safe injection sites work, he shared in a statement on August 22. “By rejecting a proven and extensively studied strategy to save lives and get people into treatment, this veto sends a powerful negative message that California is not committed to harm reduction," wrote Wiener.
Currently, 165 safe injection sites exist in 10 countries globally, with New York City establishing the first two in the nation last year.