By DON THOMPSON – Associated Press
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill Monday that he said could have caused “a world of unintended consequences” by allowing Los Angeles, Oakland and San Francisco to create sites where opioid users could legally inject drugs under supervision.
“The unlimited number of safe injection sites this bill would allow — facilities that could exist well into the latter part of this decade — could lead to a world of unintended consequences,” Newsom said.
Although he said they could be helpful, he feared that “if done without a solid plan, they could defeat that purpose. … Worsening drug abuse problems in these areas is not a risk we can take.”
It was one of the most watched and controversial measures of this legislative session.
Proponents wanted to give people who already use drugs a place to inject them while trained staff stand by to help them in the event of an accidental overdose.
The proposal came in the middle of a spike in overdose deaths in the midst of a national opioid crisis. But opponents said the move would have actually condoned the use of dangerous drugs.
“Every year this legislation is delayed, more people die of drug overdoses,” said State Sen. Scott Wiener, a Democrat from San Francisco who drafted the bill. California law.
Newsom previously said he was open to the idea. But his decision comes as he faces heightened national scrutiny as he is seen as a potential presidential candidate, despite frequently denying any interest in running.
He said he has long supported cutting-edge harm reduction strategies, but not without “well-researched, vetted and thoughtful operational and sustainability plans.”
Newsom directed his health and human services secretary to meet with city and county officials to discuss standards and best practices, and said he remains open to the concept once they get back to lawmakers. with recommendations on how the sites could be managed safely.
Wiener called Newsom’s veto “tragic” and San Francisco Mayor London Breed said the former San Francisco mayor’s veto was “disappointing.”
Laura Thomas, director of HIV policy and harm reduction at the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, said advocates have provided research and data, and Newsom’s call for more studies is “dishonest.” and “insulting”.
“We don’t need any additional studies or task forces to determine if safe drinking sites are effective,” Wiener said. “These sites are a proven strategy for reducing overdose deaths, emergency room strain and public drug use, while expanding access to medical treatment.”
The veto left Republican leaders in the Legislative Assembly in the rare position of praising Newsom, a Democrat.
“People struggling with drug addiction need help, not a legal place to shoot,” said Senate GOP Leader Scott Wilk, whose members had sought a veto in a letter at Newsom.
“We must stop allowing criminal acts,” added Republican House Leader James Gallagher, who had sent his own letter. “Instead, we should promote policies that will empower people to safely get off the streets and reintegrate into our communities.”
Tracy McCray, president of the San Francisco Police Officers Association, also praised Newsom for blocking what she said were “sanctioned drug dens…creating misery and chaos for residents and businesses forced into next to these sites”.
The first two publicly recognized Overdose prevention sites in the United States opened in New York in December and have been credited with responding to more than 150 overdoses. Rhode Island approved the testing of similar centers for two years.
More than 2.5 times as many San Franciscans died from accidental drug overdoses in 2020 — a record of about 700 people — than died from COVID-19 that year, Breed said earlier. She cited rising drug overdose rates in declare an emergency in the Tenderloin district in December.
Nationally, drug overdose deaths increased by 28.5% to more than 100,000 in the 12 months ending April 2021 compared to the same period a year earlier, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including about 10,000 Californians.
But opponents pointed to former Gov. Jerry Brown’s veto of a 2018 bill that would have allowed the sites in San Francisco.
“Allowing the use of illegal and destructive drugs will never work,” Brown, a Democrat, wrote. He said the proposal was “all carrots and no sticks” because there was no requirement for the user to undergo drug treatment.
While there are no requirements in Wiener’s bill, proponents said site employees could help users get treatment, while helping prevent the spread of HIV and other infections. hepatitis by providing clean needles. They might also have drug test kits to check for fentanyl or other contamination.
Proponents and opponents have promoted conflicting data on whether nearly 170 such sites in Australia, Canada and Europe have been successful and whether they have encouraged nearby crime.
Associated Press writer Janie Har contributed to this Marin County story.
Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.