California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) on Monday vetoed a bill to create a pilot program for safe drug consumption sites in major cities across the state—a decision viewed as a setback to the harm reduction movement that contradicts the governor’s progressive drug policy reform record.
There was an open question about what Newsom would do with the harm reduction legislation from Sen. Scott Wiener (D), with recent reports signaling that he was undecided and concerned that signing it would be politically damaging as he considers a potential presidential run.
That’s despite the fact that polling has found that a bipartisan majority of Americans support opening facilities where people could use currently illicit substances in a medically supervised environment to mitigate overdose deaths and provide people with treatment resources. That includes a plurality of support from Republicans.
But on Monday, Newsom made his choice, declining to bring the innovative harm reduction approach to California, much to the chagrin of advocates nationwide who have been closely following the legislation.
“I have long supported the cutting edge of harm reduction strategies,” Newsom said in a veto message. “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.”
“The unlimited number of safe injection sites that this bill would authorize—facilities which could exist well into the later part of this decade—could induce a world of unintended consequences,” he wrote. “It is possible that these sites would help improve the safety and health of our urban areas, but if done without a strong plan, they could work against this purpose.”
Newsom said he would instruct the state secretary of health and human services to “convene city and county officials to discuss minimum standards and best practices for safe and sustainable overdose prevention programs” and that he remains “open to this discussion when those local officials come back to the Legislature with recommendations for a truly limited pilot program—with comprehensive plans for siting, operations, community partnerships, and fiscal sustainability that demonstrate how these programs will be run safely and effectively.”
The bill would have authorized San Francisco, Los Angeles, Los Angeles County and Oakland to open overdose prevention sites under an initial pilot program, lasting through January 1, 2028.
As lieutenant governor in 2018, Newsom said he was “very, very open” to the “novel strategy”—unlike his predecessor Gov. Jerry Brown (D) who vetoed a bill to authorize the city to launch a safe consumption site pilot program.
But on Monday, Newsom said that potential “unintended consequences in cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Oakland cannot be taken lightly.”
“Worsening drug consumption challenges in these areas is not a risk we can take,” he wrote.
Wiener called the governor’s move “tragic” and “a huge lost opportunity.”
“These sites are proven to save lives and connect people to treatment,” he said. “Sad day for CA’s fight against overdose deaths.”
To Read The Rest Of This Article By Kyle Jaeger on Marijuana Moment
Published: August 22, 2022
Founder & Interim Editor of L.A. Cannabis News