SACRAMENTO - Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday vetoed a bill that would have authorized some safe injection sites across California, bringing with it "a world of unintended consequences" by allowing Los Angeles, Oakland, and San Francisco to set up sites where opioid users could legally inject drugs under supervision.
"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," Newsom said in vetoing the bill.
SB-57, sponsored by Sen. Scott Wiener, would have allowed such sites "help us address the explosion of overdose deaths that we’re seeing in California and, frankly, throughout this country."
Newsom, however, did not agree.
"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 wrote in his decision. "These 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."
The controversial bill passed the Senate by a slim margin last week.
Critics of the bill say it opens the door to more illicit drug use and all the baggage that can come with it.
Advocates say we’re paying for it either way and that punishing addiction continues the cycle.
Following Newsom's decision to veto the bill, Wiener released a statement, writing in part, "Today, California lost a huge opportunity to address one of our most deadly problems: The dramatic escalation in drug overdose deaths. By rejecting a proven and extensively studied strategy to save lives and get people into treatment, this veto sends a powerful negative message that California is not committed to harm reduction."
"While this veto is a major setback for the effort to save lives and connect people to treatment, we must not — and will not let it end this movement," the statement continued. "We'll continue to fight for an end to the War on Drugs and a focus on drug use and addiction as the health issues that they are."
The proposal came amid a spike in overdose deaths amid a national opioid crisis. But opponents said the move in effect would have condoned the use of dangerous drugs.
Governor Jerry Brown vetoed a similar bill in 2018.
- Safe injection sites could be signed into law by Gov. Newsom
- Los Angeles one step closer to allowing safe injection sites
- California advances in bid to create legal drug injection sites
Nationwide, drug overdose deaths increased 28.5% to more than 100,000 during the 12-month period ending in April 2021 over the same period a year earlier, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including about 10,000 Californians.
Supporters and opponents have promoted conflicting data on whether nearly 170 such sites in Australia, Canada and Europe have been successful and whether they have encouraged nearby crime.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.