“Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed legislation Monday that would have allowed people in three of California’s largest cities on a trial basis to use illegal drugs under medical supervision, a divisive and politically risky strategy to address a relentless wave of addiction and overdoses,” Politico reported.
Newsom expressed concern about “unintended consequences” of allowing an unlimited number of supervised consumption sites without additional safeguards.
The veto from the progressive governor comes as a surprise, considering ‘safe injection sites’ have arisen in other deep-blue areas of the country.
New York City was the first city to open safe injection sites.
Equipped and staffed to reverse overdoses, New York City’s new, privately run “overdose prevention centers” are a bold and contested response to a storm tide of opioid overdose deaths nationwide.
Supporters say the sites — also known as safe injection sites or supervised consumption spaces — are humane, realistic responses to the deadliest drug crisis in U.S. history. Critics see them as illegal and defeatist answers to the harm that drugs wreak on users and communities.
However, safe injection sites, for now at least, won’t receive the green light in California.
BREAKING: @GavinNewsom has vetoed SB 57 — which would have allowed safe injection sites to open in San Francisco, Oakland and LA. The bill was sponsored by San Francisco's @Scott_Wiener. pic.twitter.com/v9kqNg38Nc
— Liz Kreutz (@ABCLiz) August 22, 2022
California is shutting the door on safe injection sites after Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill that would have allowed them in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Oakland. https://t.co/iAmZAPgHhl
— KTVU (@KTVU) August 22, 2022
“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 said. “These unintended consequences in cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Oakland cannot be taken lightly. Worsening drug consumption challenges in these areas is not a risk we can take.”
“I remain open to this discussion when those local officials come back to the Legislature with recommendations for a truly limited pilot program,” Newsom said.
State lawmakers have debated the idea each year since 2016, a recurring struggle between progressive lawmakers who say it will save lives and moderate Democrats and Republicans who warn it would normalize hard drug use. Supporters hoped Newsom, who has said in the past he was receptive to the concept, would support this latest version from a San Francisco state senator considered a rising star in his own right.
The legislation aimed to authorize the five-year pilot programs in San Francisco, Oakland and Los Angeles, cities where drug use has contributed to an increase in property crime and homelessness that have tested the tolerance of generally liberal Californians.
Critics of the bill say it opens the door to more illicit drug use and all the baggage that can come with it.
Advocates say we’re paying for it either way and that punishing addiction continues the cycle.
Following Newsom’s decision to veto the bill, Wiener released a statement, writing in part, “Today, California lost a huge opportunity to address one of our most deadly problems: The dramatic escalation in drug overdose deaths. 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.”
“While this veto is a major setback for the effort to save lives and connect people to treatment, we must not — and will not let it end this movement,” the statement continued. “We’ll continue to fight for an end to the War on Drugs and a focus on drug use and addiction as the health issues that they are.”