Drug Injection Sites (VETOED)

WHAT THE BILL WOULD DO

Promoted as a move to stem overdoses among heroin addicts, Assembly Bill 186 would allow San Francisco to approve “safe injection sites”—essentially clinics where addicts can shoot up under medical supervision. The idea is to get hard-core drug addicts off the streets and put them in a safer situation where nurses can administer life-saving medication if they show signs of overdose. This bill applies only to San Francisco; it is a narrower version of a proposal that failed in the Legislature last year that would have allowed eight California counties to approve injection sites.

WHO SUPPORTS IT

Doctors and other professionals who treat addiction—as well as groups that promote drug decriminalization—are the main advocates behind the bill, saying it’s a safer alternative to the current situation in which thousands of needles litter the streets and drug overdoses are on the rise. San Francisco’s Chamber of Commerce and District Attorney George Gascon also support it, as do groups that treat people with AIDS and hepatitis.

WHO OPPOSES IT 

Numerous law enforcement groups argue that sanctioned injection sites will attract crime to the neighborhoods where they’re located. They also oppose a provision that says people who use the clinics cannot be prosecuted for using illegal drugs, and say the bill sets up an untenable conflict between state and federal law.

WHY IT MATTERS

San Francisco is among a handful of U.S. cities that want to try safe injection sites as a strategy to combat public drug use and spiking deaths from overdose, an approach already used in some Canadian and European cities. But the deputy US Attorney General recently said federal prosecutors will crack down “with swift and aggressive action” against any injection sites that may open.

GOVERNOR’S DECISION

Vetoed by Governor Brown on September 30, 2018.

From the governor’s veto message: “Fundamentally, I do not believe that enabling illegal drug use in government sponsored injection centers—with no corresponding requirement that the user undergo treatment—will reduce drug addiction.”

—Laurel Rosenhall