March 3, 2024
California Gov. Gavin Newsom nixed a closely watched drug bill in the state legislature that would have permitted three Golden State cities to open supervised drug-use sites.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom nixed a closely watched drug bill in the state legislature that would have permitted three Golden State cities to open supervised drug-use sites.

Newsom vetoed Senate Bill 57 on Monday, saying the move was out of concerns that it would pave the way for a “world of unintended consequences” by permitting unlimited sites in Oakland, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. He voiced support for “cutting edge of harm reduction” facilities and announced his intent to convene a study into the matter.

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“We don’t need additional studies or working groups to determine whether safe consumption sites are effective. We know from decades of experience and numerous peer-reviewed scientific studies that they work,” state Sen. Scott Wiener proclaimed after the bill was vetoed.

The measure would have green-lit pilot programs in Oakland, San Francisco, and Los Angeles in which people could use illegal drugs under the supervision of trained staffers. Supporters such as Wiener pointed to similar programs in other countries and recent developments in New York City in which supervised drug-use sites have been operating since November and have reversed roughly 400 overdoses, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Newsom, who is speculated to be eyeing a 2024 presidential bid, faced pressure from his liberal base to back the measure, which proponents argued would help reduce drug-related deaths in the state.

His predecessor, former Gov. Jerry Brown, vetoed similar legislation in 2018. At that time, Newsom asserted that he was “very, very open” to a pilot program.

“Enabling illegal and destructive drug use will never work,” Brown wrote at the time, according to the Sacramento Bee. “The community must have the authority and the laws to require 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 the drug-use sites would enable addicts to obtain drugs without the proper strings attached, such as mandatory drug treatment.

“This bill is a distraction from the real need for long overdue efforts to provide state-funded and operated effective drug treatment programs,” they wrote. “Fueling the drug epidemic with drug dens and needle supplies is like pouring gasoline on a forest fire. It merely worsens the problem. For all these reasons, we respectfully request your veto.”

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All three cities at the focus of this fight have been struggling to address a growing drug and homelessness crisis. In San Francisco, for example, over 1,600 people overdosed and died since 2020, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Many California cities have implemented other measures aimed at curbing hazards posed by drugs, including needle exchange programs.

So far, two states have authorized supervised drug-use sites, including New York and Rhode Island.

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