Gov. Jerry Brown on Sunday vetoed a bill that would have authorized San Francisco to open safe-injection sites under a three-year pilot program designed to reduce drug overdoses and the spread of infectious diseases.
The governor rejected Assembly Bill 186, from Assemblymember Susan Eggman, D-Stockton, which would have allowed The City to approve locations where drug users could inject under clinical supervision.
Brown said he felt the bill’s disadvantages outweighed the possible benefits, and noted that it would not protect local officials and health care professionals from federal prosecution.
“Fundamentally, I do not believe that enabling illegal drug use in government sponsored injection centers — with no corresponding requirement that the user undergo treatment — will reduce drug addition,” Brown wrote in his veto message.
Local officials backed the legislation despite the threat of a federal crackdown, seeing it as a way to tackle the all too visible epidemic of injecting drug use in the city. Last month, U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein warned that the opening of a safe-injection site would be met with “swift and aggressive action.” Under federal law, running a facility for the purpose of illicit drug use is illegal.
Mayor London Breed, who has been a vocal proponent for safe injecting sites, said she was disappointed by the governor’s veto.
“Safe injection sites save lives,” Breed wrote, noting that they have been shown to work in other countries. “If we are going to prevent overdoses and connect poeple to services and treatment that they badly need to stop using drugs in the first place, we need safe injection sites.”
Last month, San Francisco held a mock safe-injection site at Glide Memorial Methodist Church in the Tenderloin for four days. The simulation demonstrated the clinical setting of such a site.
Organizations including Glide, the San Francisco Aids Foundation and St. James Infirmary had been floated as possible locations for the site.
State Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, who co-authored the legislation, issued a statement calling the veto a “lost opportunty” and vowing that “we are definitely not giving up on this important public health strategy.”
“We should not allow threats from a backward federal government stop us from helping people who are dying on our streets,” he said in the statement. “The status quo is not working. We have a terrible problem of heroin and meth addiction, with far too much public injection. This public health epidemic calls for forward-looking, progressive solutions.”