San Francisco officials hope to open safe-injection site following judge's ruling

Following a Philadelphia U.S. District Judge's ruling on Wednesday that safe injection sites don't violate federal laws, San Francisco city officials are hopeful they can finally open one in an effort to stop drug use and overdose deaths.

Wednesday's ruling stems from a lawsuit by the U.S. Justice Department to stop a Philadelphia nonprofit organization from opening the country's first site.

The ruling prompted Supervisor Matt Haney to announce plans to introduce legislation to create the city's first Overdose Prevention Site.

"As we speak people are shooting up on the streets of my district and overdoses are happening everyday--we need to get these people off the streets. I am introducing legislation to require that the city treat this like the crisis that it is and do everything possible to have a site open immediately," he said.

"With our worsening heroin and opioid epidemic, we need to move quickly to solve this emergency with new solutions. What the city is doing now is clearly not enough," he said.

"We know that approximately 100 overdose prevention sites now operate in over 65 cities around the world. No site has experienced an overdose death, and many have transitioned thousands of clients into treatment and detox services. Overdose prevention sites have not increased drug injection, drug trafficking, or crime in the surrounding areas," he said.

Back in 2018, the city attempted to open a safe injection site through Assembly Bill 186, co-authored by state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco. California Gov. Jerry Brown, however, vetoed the bill, citing 
concerns that enabling illegal drug use at the sites would not reduce drug use.

Brown also cited concerns about the bill's legality, which would have afforded immunity under state law but not under federal law, meaning city officials and healthcare professional involved would have been 
vulnerable to prosecution by federal authorities.

Breed, who had advocated for the sites last year, called Wednesday's ruling "a big deal."

"Safe injection sites save lives. They help prevent overdoses, reduce public drug use, prevent the spread of disease, and connect people to medical care that can help treat their addiction," she said.

"We will be working with the City Attorney to understand what this ruling means for San Francisco because we need one or more of these sites in our city."

Wiener also praised the ruling.

"Despite the Trump administration's aggressive opposition, Philadelphia is opening a safe injection site to combat the addiction epidemic griping our nation. We need to do the same in San Francisco, and we 
need state legislation to authorize it. Safe injection sites have a strong track record reducing addiction, overdoses, crime and syringe litter. We will continue to work to get this done for our city," he said.