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Politics & Policy

Prop. F, requiring drug screening for welfare aid, approved by voters

A person in a hood lighting a pipe, another blurred figure in background, nighttime urban setting.
A person smoking drugs at a night market near UN Plaza in San Francisco on Monday, Feb. 12. Prop. F would tie San Francisco welfare payments to drug screening and treatment.  | Source: Jason Henry for The Standard

San Francisco voters on Tuesday approved Proposition F, a controversial measure to tie San Francisco welfare payments to drug screening and treatment. 

The measure needed a simple majority and was put on the ballot by Mayor London Breed.

Supporters said the measure could help push back against the wave of drug-related overdose deaths that have roiled the city, while opponents said it could take away vital monetary assistance from low-income people.

Prop. F will affect single adults with no children who are recipients of County Adult Assistance Programs, a cash program known as CAAP. If an individual is suspected of being addicted to illegal drugs, they will be required to undergo drug screening and agree to some form of treatment as a condition of continuing to receive benefits. 

The measure saw an influx of cash from tech executives including Ripple chairman Chris Larsen, collectively raising over $600,000. Opponents—including Service Employees International Union Local 1021—raised a comparatively small $37,491.

In a letter to the City Attorney’s Office, an attorney for the SEIU argued that Prop. F could adversely affect working conditions and that the city should have met with the union before placing it on the ballot. The union said that it may pursue legal action if voters passed the measure. 

Opponents of the proposition warned the measure could backfire.

“It is deeply disturbing that in the middle of an unprecedented overdose epidemic, voters got a misleading and performative ballot issue that demonizes welfare recipients rather than helps them,” Jennifer Friedenbach, executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness, said in a statement. “San Francisco deserves better. Those suffering from addiction deserve actual solutions and real opportunities for treatment, not false promises and election-year politics.”

“This was an exceptionally low voter turnout election and we know that low turnout electorates skew conservative,” Laura Guzman, executive director of the National Harm Reduction Coalition, said in a statement. “It’s difficult to say that this electorate was representative of San Francisco. What’s unfortunate is that residents are likely to see an increase in the unhoused population in the city if Measure F is implemented as described by supporters of the measure.”

The San Francisco Department of Elections will count all vote-by-mail ballots received with valid postmarks delivered by mail by March 12. Mailed ballots must be postmarked by March 5 to be counted.