The bill, SB57, would have allowed local governments in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Oakland to “approve entities within their jurisdictions to establish and operate overdose prevention programs” that meet certain requirements.
Such programs have been promoted by progressive groups who believe such centers would help cut down on drug overdoses.
Laura Guzman, a senior director at the National Harm Reduction Coalition, told the San Francisco Chronicle that proponents would be “enraged” if the bill was not signed by the governor. She viewed a veto as a “policy failure” to save lives.
State Senator Scott Wiener, a Democrat who introduced the bill, said prior to the veto that Newsom vetoing it would deliver a “negative, toxic message to the rest of the country about where progressive California is on drug use and addiction and overdoses and the war on drugs.”
Nonetheless, Newsom did just that.
In a letter to members of the Senate, he said he was “returning Senate Bill 57 without my signature.”
Governor Newsom vetoes SB 57 (Wiener) on allowing safe consumption sites pic.twitter.com/OYt5zDt8nM
— Louis Mirante (@louismirante) August 22, 2022
“I have long supported the cutting edge of harm reduction strategies. 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 governor wrote.
He said the unlimited amount of sites that the bill would allow “could induce a world of unintended consequences.” He added that he is telling the Secretary of Health and Human Services to bring together city and county authorities to talk about the best ways to run overdose prevention programs. When the authorities return to the Legislature with more guidelines “for a truly limited pilot program,” Newsom said he “remain[s] open to this discussion.”
San Francisco’s injection site, Tenderloin Linkage Center, is set to shut down in December. In January, when the center opened, 48 people overdosed in San Francisco, a figure which remained around the same in the months to follow, The Daily Wire reported.
Jacqui Berlinn’s son is addicted to fentanyl and is living on the San Francisco streets. She co-founded Mother’s Against Drug Deaths and does not support safe injection sites.
“It’s really frustrating to me because I feel like we are normalizing drug use with our children. They are seeing this all around them and specially with safe consumption sites it’s going to bring more addicts into the area,” Berlinn said, per ABC7 News, adding, “They are building this community of ‘it’s okay to use all the time’ and I’m not trying to stigmatize anybody, but the drugs that are on our streets are so deadly that it shouldn’t be okay.”