San Francisco police union backs Newsom veto of drug injection sites; supporters shocked

California Gov. Gavin Newsom rejected a bill Monday that would have allowed Oakland, San Francisco and Los Angeles to establish monitored injection sites for users of illegal drugs.

The governor said he is not opposed to the idea, but said he had concerns about the implementation.

Senate Bill 57 would have allowed cities to create pilot programs for supervised injection sites, where people would be allowed to use illegal drugs in a facility supervised by trained staff.

In a statement, Newsom explained his objections.

"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," he said. "The unlimited number of injection sites that the bill would authorize - facilities which could exist well into the later part of this decade - could induce a world of unintended consequences." 

Newsom's veto came as a shock to supporters of the SB 57.

"It's absolutely tragic," said State Sen. Scott Wiener of San Francisco was the author of the bill. "It's been used around the world for 30 people instead of shooting up on a sidewalk in public view where they can overdose and die, they can go inside out of public view in a healthy setting. In San Francisco earlier this year, Glide, St. Anthony's and other organizations opened a mock injection site to show the community how a facility would be used and supervised.

Other pilot programs in Oakland and Los Angeles were also in the works based on programs already in use.

"New York City implemented these a year ago," said Wiener. "They have been so successful, that Mayor Adams in NY City who is a law-and-order mayor, Mayor Adams wants them to go 24 hours because they've been so successful."

In San Francisco's Tenderloin neighborhood, there is support for injections sites.

"There are too many people out here who are homeless and OD'ing. If they want to get into treatment, they can get into treatment," said Lisa Cook, a San Francisco resident.

"I walk through the Tenderloin district every day and I see people on the ground, and I'll see paramedics have to check on them to see if they're still breathing or not," said Frank Blageman, who lives in San Francisco.

Opponents argue it sanctions illegal behavior.

The San Francisco Police Officers Association issued a statement backing Newsom's decision.

"These locations would have allowed sanctioned drug dens and attracted more drug dealers to these neighborhoods creating misery and chaos for the residents and businesses forced to be next to these sites," the SFPOA statement said.

Opponents also say the focus and funds should be for drug enforcement and treatment.

"What we need is more treatment programs for folks to get off of drugs. That's the hardest thing," said Assem. Jim Cooper, a Democrrat representing the San Joaquin area.

Newsom said he remains open to the idea of injection sites, but he is asking his health secretary to meet with city and county officials to discuss minimum standards and best practices for more limited pilot programs.