Gov. Gavin Newsom this week vetoed legislation that would have allowed Los Angeles to become one of three cities in California to provide supervised injection sites.
Newsom said in 2018 he was “very, very open” to the idea of a pilot program to allow legal drug injection sites. But in a statement Monday, the governor said he was concerned over the “unintended consequences” of the bill, authored by Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), because it would allow an unlimited number of safe injection sites.
“I have long supported the cutting edge of harm reduction strategies,” Newsom said. “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.”
Newsom’s predecessor, Jerry Brown, vetoed similar legislation in 2018.
The legislation, Senate Bill 57, would have allowed the city and county of Los Angeles—along with San Francisco and Oakland—to provide spaces where people could consume pre-obtained drugs with provided clean needles. Trained professionals would be on site with supplies such as Narcan to assist in the event of an overdose.
Newsom added that he would be open to a “truly limited pilot program,” instructing the Secretary of Health and Human Services to meet with local city officials to discuss the matter further.
Wiener, in a statement, called the veto ”tragic.” He said that SB 57 “is not a radical bill by any stretch of the imagination,” adding that “we don’t need additional studies or working groups to determine whether safe consumption sites are effective.”
Deaths attributed to accidental drug overdoses in Los Angeles County increased by 52% during the first 10 months of the pandemic compared to the same time period in 2019, according to a July 2021 report by the county.
The pilot program would have lasted through 2027, with annual reports delivered to the jurisdiction. Each jurisdiction would have also funded a peer-reviewed study on the effectiveness of the program.