A bold plan to provide places for people to use illegal drugs making its way through the California legislature. The bill would allow supervised injection sites.
Los Angeles is one of the three cities being considered for the pilot program and the bill is heading to Governor Gavin Newsom’s desk.
The idea, according to proponents, is to provide a place where people could use drugs safely.
Senate Bill 57 allows certain areas to create injection sites. The California department of public health says there were more than 5,500 overdose deaths in 2020.
The bill, authored by Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, passed the state Senate by a 21-11 vote Monday.
“An absolute explosion in overdose deaths in California and other parts of the country, it’s a national problem,” Weiner said.
Under the proposal, three areas: L.A. County including the city of L.A., San Francisco and Oakland could create pilot programs where people use drugs they bring with them.
Proponents said it would reduce overdoses because there would be people there to help in case if an emergency.
“Allow them to go inside so the public won’t see them into a setting that is safer and healthier and cleaner, where if they do overdose the overdose it can be immediately reversed so they don’t die,” Weiner said.
Weiner said people could then be offered treatment.
“The intention is done with heart, but the unintended consequences are much greater,” Senator Rosilicie Ochoa Bogh said.
Opponents said drug users don’t have to accept any treatment.
“So the incentive is for them to go to these safe zones for the injections, but there’s no requirement of them to seek treatment,” Ochoa Bogh said. “It’s there to be offered as a referral as a resource but it’s not required of them.”
Deaths attributed to accidental drug overdoses in L.A. 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.
Some worry this would allow cities to operate drug dens. They worry it would normalize substance abuse.
“I’m not sure that many taxpayers would be an agreement to use their tax dollars to facilitate drug use,” Ochoa Bogh said.
The bill is expected to be on Governor Newsom’s desk by the end of this week. After that, he has 12 days to sign it or veto it.
Newsom said in 2018 he was “very, very open” to the idea of a pilot program to allow legal drug injection sites, splitting with his predecessor Jerry Brown, who vetoed a similar bill that same year.