San Francisco Lawmakers Could Skirt Ban on 'Safe Injection Sites'

San Francisco Mayor London Breed (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
January 26, 2023

California Democrats are forging ahead with a plan to open so-called safe injection sites after Gov. Gavin Newsom (D.) vetoed a bill that would have legalized them.

Democratic supervisors have proposed a plan to establish "wellness centers" around the city, which would provide a number of services including spaces for drug consumption, the San Francisco's KRON reported. These centers would be partially funded by taxpayers, though private nonprofits would fund and operate the "safe consumption areas" for drug users. While they have yet to convince Mayor London Breed (D.) to join their initiative, Breed has suggested nonprofits forge ahead with plans for safe injection sites while the city debates the proposal's legality.

Newsom in August vetoed a bill that would have legalized publicly funded injection sites in a number of California cities.

This is the latest effort by San Francisco lawmakers to manage the city’s addiction problem. The city boasts over 20 "harm reduction centers" where drug users can obtain clean crack pipes or needles, free of charge. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors last month proposed a $5.5 million budget for drug-use hubs across the city, which would also provide drug users with access to medical care.

Progressive lawmakers argue that these safe injection sites will curb overdose deaths. So far, this has not been the case. The city in December shut down the controversial Tenderloin Linkage Center, a $22 million project meant to connect at-risk drug users with public aid. Breed pledged that the site, which opened in January 2022, would help reduce overdose deaths. The city had 625 overdose deaths in 2022, 41 percent more than pre-pandemic levels.

The Linkage Center was purposefully constructed in the Tenderloin, which is home to San Francisco’s largest "open air drug market." Small business owners in the Tenderloin are demanding tax refunds from the city to make up for the loss of business they say is caused by the city’s inaction on drug use and crime.

Breed was supposed to meet with the coalition this week but postponed the meeting until February, the group said in an email to members Tuesday.