Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill on Monday that would have allowed San Francisco, Los Angeles and Oakland to operate facilities for supervised drug use legally under state law.
In a memo about the veto, Newsom wrote that he is "acutely concerned" about allowing the sites to open without vetted operational plans.
"The unlimited number of safe injection sites that this bill would authorize - facilities which could exist well into the later part of this decade - could induce a world of unintended consequences," Newsom wrote in an Aug. 22 legislative memo.
The governor’s veto is likely to spark an outcry among harm reduction advocates who lobbied hard for the bill, Senate Bill 57, to be adopted.
San Francisco has longed signaled its plans to open up safe consumption facilities, having already purchased two buildings intended to serve as the city’s first officially sanctioned site.
Newsom’s decision throws safe consumption sites, which are federally banned under the Controlled Substances Act, back into legal limbo.
It may not change San Francisco’s immediate plans, however: The city is awaiting a final decision in a court case that may carve out a legal path safe consumption sites at the federal level, and has been in discussions with the U.S. Department of Justice on appropriate guardrails for those sites.
State Sen. Scott Wiener, who introduced SB 57, called Newsom's veto of the bill "tragic" in a statement.
“For eight years, a broad coalition has worked to pass this life-saving legislation. Each year this legislation is delayed, more people die of drug overdoses — two per day in San Francisco alone," Wiener wrote.
City Attorney David Chiu said in a statement on Monday that the city will back a nonprofit-run safe consumption site despite the veto, a model already adopted in New York City.
Mayor London Breed echoed Chiu's statement, writing that overdose prevention programs are "a key step in our efforts to help people struggling with addiction.”
David Sjostedt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org