VSAlifornia Gov. Gavin Newsom has defeated a closely watched drug bill in the state legislature that would have allowed three Golden State cities to open supervised drug consumption sites.
Newsom vetoed Senate Bill 57 on Monday, saying the move was out of concern that it would open up a “world of unintended consequences” by allowing unlimited sites in Oakland, San Francisco and Los Angeles. He expressed his support for facilities “at the cutting edge of harm reduction” and announced his intention to convene a study into the matter.
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“We don’t need any additional studies or task forces to determine if safe consumption sites are effective. We know from decades of experience and numerous peer-reviewed scientific studies that they work,” Sen. Scott Wiener said. proclaimed after the bill was vetoed.
The measure would have greenlit pilot programs in Oakland, San Francisco and Los Angeles in which people could use illegal drugs under the supervision of trained staff members. Supporters such as Wiener pointed to similar programs in other countries and recent developments in New York in which supervised drug consumption sites have been operating since November and have reversed around 400 overdoses, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
Newsom said in 2018 that he was “very open” to the idea after @JerryBrownGov vetoed the previous bill. But Newsom ends up making the same decision.
— Jeremy B. White (@JeremyBWhite) August 22, 2022
Newsom, who is believed to be considering a 2024 presidential bid, has faced pressure from his liberal base to back the measure, which supporters say would help reduce drug-related deaths in the state.
His predecessor, former Governor Jerry Brown, vetoed similar legislation in 2018. At that time, Newsom said he was “very, very open” to a pilot program.
“Allowing the use of illegal and destructive drugs will never work,” Brown wrote at the time, according the Sacramento bee. “The community must have the authority and the laws to demand compassionate but effective and mandatory treatment.”
Critics of the legislation, which included Republicans who wrote a letter to Newsom earlier this month, imploring him to oppose the measure, argued that drug consumption sites would allow addicts to obtain drugs without the proper conditions, such as compulsory treatment of the substance addiction.
“This bill is a distraction from the real need for long-overdue efforts to provide effective state-funded and operated drug treatment programs,” they wrote. “Feeding the drug epidemic with drug dens and needle supplies is like pouring gasoline on a wildfire. It only makes the problem worse. For all these reasons, we respectfully request your veto.
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The three cities at the center of this struggle are struggling to cope with a growing drug and homelessness crisis. In San Francisco, for example, more than 1,600 people have overdosed and died since 2020, according to the Chronicle of San Francisco. Many California cities have implemented other measures to reduce the risks posed by drugs, including needle exchange programs.
So far, two states have allowed supervised drug consumption sites, including New York and Rhode Island.