California’s Newsom vetoes bill that would have allowed legal drug injection sites


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California Governor Gavin Newsom on Monday vetoed a bill that would have allowed major cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco to set up facilities where people could use drugs under supervision.

Explaining his reason, the Democratic governor said the unlimited number of safe injection sites that SB 57 would allow “could introduce a world of unintended consequences.”

File: California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks during a visit to Chabot Space &; Science Center with U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris August 12, 2022 in Oakland, California.
(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Newsom conceded that such facilities would be helpful, but feared that “if done without a solid plan, they could defeat that purpose. … The worsening of drug use problems in these areas is not not a risk we can take”.

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. But opponents have argued that the move would have actually condoned the use of dangerous drugs.

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State Sen. Scott Wiener, a San Francisco Democrat who drafted the bill, called Newsom’s veto “tragic” and “a huge lost opportunity.”

“Sad day for CA’s fight against overdose deaths,” Wiener said in a statement.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed also called Newsom’s veto “disappointing” but vowed “we’re not giving up.”

“Overdose prevention programs save lives and help connect people to treatment and services,” she tweeted.

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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 to Newsom.

“We must stop allowing criminal acts,” added Republican Assembly 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.”

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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”.

SB 57 has been one of the most watched and controversial measures of this legislative session. The proposal came amid a spike in overdose deaths amid a national opioid crisis.

California Governor Gavin Newsom (D) speaks with reporters after a meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, at the United States Capitol, Friday, July 15, 2022.

California Governor Gavin Newsom (D) speaks with reporters after a meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, at the United States Capitol, Friday, July 15, 2022.
(Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

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.

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.

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Nationally, drug overdose deaths rose 28.5% to more than 100,000 in the 12 months to April 2021 compared to the same period a year earlier, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including about 10,000 Californians.

The Associated Press contributed.

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