State Sen. Scott Wiener on Thursday announced he’s planning on reintroducing legislation to legalize safe injection sites when the state Legislature reconvenes in December.
Wiener has long been an advocate for the sites, which allow drug users to safely consume in the presence of medical professionals who are equipped with the medication naloxone to prevent overdoses. Back in 2018, Wiener’s initial legislation pushing for safe injection sites, Assembly Bill 186, was vetoed by then-Gov. Jerry Brown.
Wiener reintroduced the legislation as AB 362 earlier this year, but that too has been canned.
“We have a huge problem here in San Francisco and elsewhere with substance use disorder and with people who are overdosing, and all too often dying. We know that overdose deaths have been going up here in San Francisco. This is a public health crisis,” Wiener said, speaking at Boeddeker Park in the city’s Tenderloin neighborhood.
“We need to treat drug use as the public health issue that it is, not a criminal issue. And we need to stop using the criminal justice system as a way of somehow addressing addiction in our community,” he said.
“When you have people who you know and love who struggle with addiction, the thing that you want most for them is you want a better life for them, you want them to be able to get help, you want to make sure that that addiction doesn’t take their life. And that’s happened to me,” said Mayor London Breed, referring to her sister who died from an overdose.
“We can’t control people and their addiction, but what we can do is be there for them. And this is a way for being there for people. This is a way for providing a space that doesn’t judge them, so that when they walk through the doors, they’re not treated like a drug addict. They’re treated like a human being,” Breed said.
Overdose deaths have been on the rise in the city in recent years, with 222 reported in 2017, 259 in 2018 and 441 in 2019, according to data from the city’s Department of Public Health. The rise has been linked to the use of the opioid drug fentanyl, although methamphetamine or a combination of both have also been linked to overdose deaths.
In other parts of the world, such as Europe and Canada, more than 100 safe injection sites have already been implemented and have been shown to prevent overdose deaths, reduce the spread of diseases like hepatitis C and HIV, and help get users into treatment.
“Overdose deaths in our city rose 70 percent in 2019, and unfortunately all signs point to this trend continuing in 2020,” said city Public Health Director Grant Colfax. “Lives will be saved with safe injection sites, also known as safe consumption sites in San Francisco.”
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf has also been an advocate for implementing safe injection sites in her city. In a statement, she said, “These sites can help people who suffer from drug addiction get on a path of health, as well as manage the impacts our entire community experiences when we allow drug illness to go untreated.”