California delays considering supervised sites for drug use

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By Associated Press

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California lawmakers will wait until next year to continue considering a bill that would give opioid users a place to inject drugs in supervised settings, the bill’s author said Tuesday.

State Sen. Scott Wiener, a Democrat from San Francisco, said he was told the Assembly Health Committee will delay a hearing on his bill until January.

The measure would allow Los Angeles, Oakland, San Francisco and Los Angeles County to start programs giving people a place to inject drugs while trained staff are available to help if they suffer accidental overdoses.

“Safe consumption sites are a proven strategy to save lives and help people into recovery,” Wiener said.

Currently the sites are illegal in the United States, but legal in Canada.

Wiener’s bill cleared the Senate in April with the minimum number of votes needed for passage there. The Senate Republican Caucus said in a statement at the time that the bill would “establish taxpayer-staffed and funded drug dens.”

The proposal is opposed by some law enforcement groups, but Wiener said in a statement that it “is very much alive, albeit delayed.”

Similar bills authorizing injection sites have passed both chambers of the Legislature within the last five years, and such bills have repeatedly passed the Assembly Health Committee during that time, Wiener said. Former Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown in 2018 vetoed a bill that would have allowed San Francisco to offer injection sites.

Wiener noted he was disappointed in another delay at a time when he said San Francisco and other cities are experiencing record overdose deaths.

His bill would require workers at the centers to try to get users into drug treatment programs or refer them to medical or mental health care or social services programs.

The former Trump administration sued to block a proposed injection site in Philadelphia, and a federal appeals court sided with the government earlier this year. Supporters have appealed and hope President Joe Biden’s administration will drop the lawsuit.

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