Newsom Vetoes Controversial Overdose Prevention Program Bill


Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill that intended to allow “safe” and sterile injection sites as a form of overdose treatment.

Newsom called the bill a “risk,” stating that major California cities, such as Los Angeles, could have faced “unintended consequences” from the bill.

“It is possible that these sites would help improve the safety and health of our urban areas, but if done without a strong plan, they could work against this purpose,” Newsom said. “These unintended consequences in cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Oakland cannot be taken lightly. Worsening drug consumption challenges in these areas is not a risk we can take.”

Senate Bill 57 was authored by Senator Scott Wiener in 2020, and stated that the sites would provide a “hygienic space” for supervised and controlled drug consumption.

After multiple amendments, the bill passed through the state assembly on June 30 and then was narrowly passed by the state senate on August 1, before being sent back by Newsom Monday without his signature.

“Today’s veto is tragic,” Wiener said 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. While this veto is a major setback for the effort to save lives and connect people to treatment, we must not and will not let it end this movement. We will continue to fight for an end to the War on Drugs and a focus on drug use and addiction as the health issues that they are.”

The bill pointed to similar overdose prevention programs around the world, citing that the programs reduce overdoses and HIV transmission, while at the same time providing counseling services to those who need it. Also noted was that the 165 drug programs led to a decrease in public drug use, with a study in the American Medical Association saying, “Supervised consumption sites are an evidence-based medical and public health intervention with the potential to improve individual and community health.”

Still, Newsom wrote that the state needs to “strive” to have well-planned services, even more so when they are pilot programs.

The governor then asked the secretary of Health and Human Services to meet with city officials to discuss best practices for programs such as the ones in SB 57.

“I remain open to this discussion when those local officials come back to the Legislature with recommendations for a truly limited pilot program – with comprehensive plans for siting, operations, community partnerships, and fiscal sustainability that demonstrate how these programs will be run safely and effectively,” Newsom said.

Overdoses have been the leading cause of accidental deaths in California since 2011.

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