California Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill that would have enabled certain local governments to run safe injection sites for drug users.
With this concept in place, authorities in Oakland, San Francisco, and Los Angeles would have been able to create safe consumption site pilot programs.
California’s Bill for Drug-Injection Sites Are Vetoed By Gavin Newsom
In his veto statement, Mr. Newsom stated his support for harm-reduction techniques for drug addicts but expressed “acute worry about the operations of safe injection sites without strong, engaged local leadership and well-documented, vetted, and deliberate operational and sustainability plans.”
The Democrat declared that he had directed his health and human services secretary to call a meeting of local leaders to examine effective strategies for preventing drug overdoses. If those authorities came back with what he called “a properly restricted pilot program” with plans to manage them safely and effectively, he said he would be open to reconsidering the subject.
Democrat Scott Wiener of San Francisco, who authored the vetoed bill, expressed his sadness at the governor’s decision. A “wide coalition” has been working on this “lifesaving legislation” for “eight years,” he stated in a statement. Overdose deaths increase by two per day in San Francisco alone every year this legislation is postponed.
On August 1, with a bare majority of 21 votes in the state Senate, the law was officially passed by the Democratic-controlled state legislature. Some legislators, especially those in competitive races in the fall, skipped the vote.
The mayors of Oakland and San Francisco, as well as Los Angeles county politicians, have been pushing for the legalization of such facilities for years, citing the state’s opioid epidemic as the reason. Deaths from opioid overdoses increased by more than 100% between 2019 and 2021, with 6,843 reported in 2021 according to state data.
Advocates for the concept point to the potential for reducing overdose mortality and increasing access to treatment and social assistance for addicts as reasons for its rising popularity.
The first two United States safe injection facilities were inaugurated in New York City last year. Only Rhode Island has authorized them so far, joining countries like Canada, Switzerland, and the Netherlands in doing so.
Opponents have said that safe injection facilities are just another kind of state-sanctioned substance misuse that leads nowhere.
Democratic former California governor Jerry Brown vetoed a similar measure in 2018, saying he didn’t think permitting government-sponsored injection sites without mandating users to seek treatment would be beneficial in battling addiction. Mr. Newsom indicated he would be “very, very receptive” to a trial program of that type during his gubernatorial campaign later that year.
Democratic strategist Garry South of California argued that if Mr. Newsom had approved such a divisive strategy, he would have had to take responsibility for its outcomes given his pursuit of national prominence and leadership roles within the party. According to Mr. South, the governor may be taking a political risk if he runs for higher office or seeks reelection this November, despite being a heavy favorite in both cases.
Mr. Newsom has, in recent weeks, criticized the Republican governors of Florida and Texas in campaign advertising. In public speeches and online, he has debated other Republican leaders on matters including abortion rights, transgender youth legislation, and gun control.
His staff declined to comment on the possible political ramifications of his veto.