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Dorsey proposes ‘right to recovery’ zones with targeted drug enforcement

In response to growing demands for drug treatment, District 6 Supervisor Matt Dorsey plans to draft legislation that would establish priority zones for enforcement of laws against open-air drug dealing and consumption. 

The idea, which Dorsey discussed in a recent interview with The Standard, is to create “right to recovery” blocks where people can seek treatment for addiction without having to encounter drug use and dealing.

The proposed legislation would direct police officers to immediately confiscate illegal drugs being used publicly and to arrest anyone selling controlled substances in designated areas close to treatment facilities. 

Those facilities would include ​​“private or public residential and outpatient treatment facilities, sober living environments (or SLEs), and harm-reduction models such as supervised consumption facilities,” according to the proposal. 

“The ‘Right to Recovery’ initiative will ensure that people who are striving to live a drug-free life will have a safe space to recover and a ‘non-triggering’ environment to rebuild their life,” said Chief Cristel Tullock of the San Francisco Adult Probation Department in a statement. 

Dorsey, who was appointed last month to the District 6 seat vacated by Matt Haney, asked City Attorney David Chiu to help draft legislation for consideration at the Board of Supervisors. Details to be determined include the size of the right to recovery zones, and how they would be noticed to the public. 

In an interview, Dorsey said he hopes that the legislation would help allay skepticism of safe consumption sites or other treatment facilities in neighborhoods. 

“I think right now, one of the biggest obstacles is how do we convince neighbors to welcome this into their neighborhood,” said Dorsey. “If we’re not making sure that people aren’t doing drugs outside of the facility or selling drugs outside of the facility, we’re going to lose the support of the neighborhood.”

In response to surging overdose deaths, the city plans to open supervised consumption sites in addition to other investments in drug treatment. 

But members of the public aren’t entirely sold on those sites, according to The Standard’s voter poll conducted in May: Thirty-two percent of those surveyed supported opening supervised drug consumption sites, while 66% supported compulsory treatment for drug users who pose a risk to themselves or others.

Annie Gaus can be reached at annie@sfstandard.com