Newsom expected to sign Senate Bill 57 to save lives at risk due to war on drugs – Press Enterprise
Governor Gavin Newsom has long understood that the war on drugs has been and always will be a failure. Drug prohibition does not make drugs or drug-related problems go away. It only drives drug markets underground, making addiction and abuse more harmful than it already is. It’s obvious to anyone who’s honest about it.
Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, has proposed a controversial but fundamentally sound plan to grant certain local jurisdictions the ability to approve and pilot overdose prevention programs. Known by various names, these programs provide hygienic and safe, professionally staffed facilities where people who are already considering drug use can do so under professional supervision in the event of an overdose.
The legislator approved the proposal, Senate Bill 57, and he now sits on the governor’s desk. He should sign it.
The logic is simple. If you provide such spaces, the primary if not exclusive populations that will use them are those in the grip of addiction who face constant risks of overdose, death, and disease transmission. Often they will use it in public, to the detriment of the community. These spaces then provide an opportunity to shield drug use from public view, mitigate the direct harms of drug abuse, and provide a vital link between drug users and community groups who can provide referrals to addiction services.
In the context of the war on drugs and a fentanyl crisis that everyone says they are at least worried about, that makes sense. It’s not only logical, but realistic – we can’t, in fact, stop ourselves from getting out of addiction – and evidence-based. Such programs exist and have existed all over the world. This is not a new strategy.
Republican Assembly Leader James Gallagher urged Governor Newsom vetoes the bill, arguing in a letter to Newsom that “Allowing citizens to engage in illegal drug use under the guise of overdose prevention does nothing to solve the growing drug problem.” faced by many in our state.
It is exaggerated to claim that it “does nothing”. He does a lot of things in direct response to the addiction problem, as I’ve written about before.
“There is no need for these participants to seek addiction treatment or help,” he continued.
Well, yes, they would not be arrested and forced to go to these centers. The idea is to offer these spaces to compensate for the misdeeds of their activity. They also provide an opportunity to engage with people with drug addictions, in particular, who will use regardless of the law and continue to use drugs with or without the passage of Senate Bill 57, in a way that law enforcement or other service providers cannot.
“This action puts the public at increased risk after these attendees leave the facility under the influence of drugs,” Gallagher continues.
This might be new for Gallagher, but these participants will all be people who currently use drugs. The question is do you prefer them to shoot in a park or sidewalk and eventually die of an overdose or do you prefer them to be in a non-public setting doing what they would otherwise where they want and have a really reduced change of dying (and maybe even seeking help).
“With record crime rates and overdoses in our state, this measure will only exacerbate the rapid decline of the California dream,” Gallagher says.
I mean, one, it’s wrong to claim that California has “record crime rates,” as a fact, “the sky is blue,” matter.
It’s also a bit odd to cite overdoses as a problem and then oppose a serious attempt to tackle overdoses.
Newsom should do the right thing, which I suspect he knows is the right thing, and sign Senate Bill 57. There is no real reason to claim that it is a political risk for him. He will sail to be re-elected. It would also show that it is both progressive and evidence-based. And it’s a chance for him to lead the nation in dismantling the racist and fundamentally stupid war on drugs.
Sal Rodriguez can be reached at [email protected]