California Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed Senate Bill 57 on Monday, which would have allowed several Californian cities to open safe injection and consumption sites as part of a pilot program.
Drafted by state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, the bill aimed to address overdose rates in Oakland, San Francisco and Los Angeles by having trained staff supervise drug consumption sites. The bill also would have granted access to supplies and treatment services.
In the veto letter, Newsom said he is “acutely concerned” about the operations of the sites without engagement of local leadership and thoughtful organization.
“We should strive to ensure our innovative efforts are well planned, even when they start as pilots, to help mitigate the potential for unintended impacts,” Newsom said in the letter.
Newsom raised concerns in the letter about worsening drug consumption in the three cities the bill intended and called for a more comprehensive plan. In addition, he said he is still open for a discussion on how the program can be made stronger.
During his campaign in 2018, Newsom expressed his interest in supporting the pilot program after former governor Jerry Brown vetoed a similar bill, according to the SF Chronicle. Additionally, Newsom stated that he was “very open” to the idea.
Brown’s concern surrounded civil and criminal charges staff and health professionals could potentially face and was not convinced that the program would be effective, according to the article.
Wiener addressed the veto in a statement, saying the state had “lost a huge opportunity” in addressing drug overdose deaths.
“We know from decades of experience and numerous peer-reviewed scientific studies that they work,” Wiener said in the statement. “These sites are a proven strategy to reduce overdose deaths, pressure on emergency rooms, and public drug use, while expanding access to drug treatment.”
He added that other U.S. cities, including New York, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Philadelphia, were all either considering safe injection sites or already had sites in operation.
San Francisco Mayor London Breed expressed her support for the program in a recent tweet responding to the veto.
“The news about SB57 is disappointing but we aren’t giving up,” Breed said in the tweet. “Overdose prevention programs save lives and help connect people to treatment and services.”