Syringes for a needle exchange program
Clean syringes. Photo by Photo by Joe Mabel via Wikimedia Commons

Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed legislation that would have allowed Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Oakland to operate supervised injection sites, with overdose treatment and recovery programs available.

Newsom said in 2018 he was “very, very open” to the idea of a pilot program to allow legal drug injection sites. But in a statement Monday, the governor said he was concerned over the “unintended consequences” of the bill, authored by Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, because it would allow an unlimited number of safe injection sites.

“I have long supported the cutting edge of harm reduction strategies,” Newsom said. “However, 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.”

Newsom’s predecessor, Jerry Brown, vetoed similar legislation in 2018.

The legislation, Senate Bill 57, would have allowed Los Angeles, San Francisco and Oakland to provide spaces where people could consume pre-obtained drugs with provided clean needles. Trained professionals would be on site with supplies such as Narcan to assist in the event of an overdose.

Newsom added that he would be open to a “truly limited pilot program,” instructing the Secretary of Health and Human Services to meet with local city officials to discuss the matter further.

Wiener, in a statement, called the veto “tragic.” He said that SB 57 “is not a radical bill by any stretch of the imagination,” adding that “we don’t need additional studies or working groups to determine whether safe consumption sites are effective.”

California Senate Democrats passed SB 57 on Aug. 1 with all Senate Republicans voting no. Senate Republicans responded by signing a formal letter urging Newsom to veto the bill.

Republican leader Scott Wilk of Santa Clarita, in a statement, said he was “glad to see the governor veto this.”

“People struggling with addiction need help, not a legal place to shoot up,” Wilk said. “I look forward to working with the governor to convince Democrats in the legislature that a compassionate approach to addiction is better done through medical and mental health treatments.” 

The pilot program would have lasted through 2027, with annual reports delivered to the jurisdiction. Each jurisdiction would have also funded a peer-reviewed study on the effectiveness of the program.

City News Service contributed to this article.



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Ellen Bullock