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Newsom vetoes controversial bill allowing legal drug injection sites

Citing the potential for “unintended consequences,” California Governor Gavin Newsom on Monday vetoed a bill that would have legalized drug injection and consumption sites in an effort to reduce overdoses.

“I have long supported the cutting edge of harm reduction strategies,” Newsom said in a statement announcing the veto. “However, I am acutely concerned about the operations of safe injection sites without strong, engaged local leadership and well-documented, vetted, and thoughtful operational and sustainability plans.”

Senate Bill 57, sponsored by Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), would have created a pilot program of drug consumption facilities in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Oakland. The sites would be staffed with clinicians who could administer life-saving treatment in the event of an overdose.

Critics of SB 57, including Senate Republicans and law enforcement leaders, argued the bill would encourage more drug abuse while doing little to help addicts.

“Worsening drug consumption challenges in these areas is not a risk we can take. We should strive to ensure our innovative efforts are well planned, even when they start as pilots, to help mitigate the potential for unintended impacts,” Newsom said.

Sen. Wiener called the governor’s veto “tragic” and “a huge lost opportunity.”

“These sites are proven to save lives & connect people to treatment. Sad day for CA’s fight against overdose deaths,” Wiener tweeted.

In his veto statement, Gov. Newsom said he instructed the Secretary of Health and Human Services to meet with city and county officials to work on “safe and sustainable” overdose prevention programs.

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