On Monday, Newsom vetoed Senate Bill 57: the bill that would install safe injection sites in California cities where addicts would be able to legally inject drugs under the supervision of health professionals, saying it could lead to a “world of unintended consequences.”
In 2018, Newsom told the San Francisco Chronicle he was “very, very open” to an injection-site pilot program, admitting this concept could be helpful in preventing accidental overdoses by giving addicts clean needles and trained staff.
The proposed legislation claimed that the COVID-19 pandemic increased the rate of overdoses within the state, saying that in May 2020 alone, overdoses jumped 42% compared to the prior year. The bill suggested that injection sites could help prevent that soaring number.
Instead, Newsom has ordered California’s Secretary of Health and Human Services Mark Ghaly to meet with city and county officials to develop “safe and sustainable” overdose prevention programs.
“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,” Newsom said in a statement announcing the veto.
Critics of the bill have praised the governor’s decision, including the San Francisco Police Officer’s Association, which said, “These locations would have allowed sanctioned drug dens and attracted more drug dealers to these neighborhoods, creating misery and chaos for the residents and businesses forced to be next to these sites.”
Sen. Scott Wiener originally introduced the bill and called the governor’s veto “tragic.”
“The veto is tragic & a huge lost opportunity. These sites are proven to save lives & connect people to treatment. Sad day for CA’s fight against overdose deaths,” Wiener tweeted a full statement in response to Newsom’s decision to veto the legislation.
Two similar injection sites opened in New York City in December and have been credited with intervening in more than 150 overdoses.