Linda Mantel with Glide Harm Reduction shows a strip that determines whether fentanyl is in a user's heroin at a safe injection site simulation at Glide Memorial Church's Freedom Hall on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Legislation allowing safe injecting sites in SF reintroduced after veto

State Sen. Scott Wiener on Monday announced the reintroduction of legislation that would allow San Francisco to run a safe injecting sites program, following a veto last year by Gov. Jerry Brown.

The legislation rejected by Brown last year would have authorized a three-year pilot program to test the results of medically supervised safe injecting sites for drug users. Studies suggest safe injecting sites operating in other countries including Canada have helped to cut down on needle litter, reduce the spread of disease, prevent overdose deaths and get more users into treatment and housing.

SEE RELATED: Brown vetoes safe injecting sites legislation; Breed ‘disappointed’

Within the United States, however, they remain controversial, and Brown echoed the concerns of many opponents in his veto message, in which he said he did not believe that “enabling illegal drug use” without requiring treatment would reduce drug addiction.

Current Gov. Gavin Newsom has previously expressed some openness to the concept.

On Monday, Newsom spokesman Brian Ferguson did not give a clear indication of how the governor would vote but said Newsom “believes strongly in addressing addiction, homelessness and whole person-care. He is also keenly aware that details matter and bills change at every stage of the legislative process.”

“He’s committed to working with the legislature and making his priorities known, and he carefully reviews all pending legislation (and, of course, every bill that reaches his desk) to ensure they meet the standard of the people of California,” Ferguson added.

Local officials including Mayor London Breed have back the concept of safe injecting sites as a way to reduce the amount of highly visible drug use on city streets. They have held off on pursuing them so far, however, in the face of strong opposition from federal authorities, who have warned that they would prosecute anyone operating a facility for illicit drug use.

SEE RELATED: Mock safe injection site opens in SF amid threat of federal prosecution

The state legislation is seen as a way of providing some legal cover for both city officials and the nonprofits that would probably operate the facilities.

SEE RELATED: SF loses lead on safe injection sites

“San Francisco has a long history of pushing the envelope on progressive public health solutions, including medical cannabis and needle exchange, before either was legal or broadly embraced,” Wiener said in a statement today. “With AB 362 San Francisco, once again, can lead the way on progressive change for our community and for all of California.”

Wiener co-authored the legislation with Stockton Assemblymember Susan Talamantes Eggman.

Editor’s note: This story was updated to include comment from Gov. Gavin Newsom

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