Amid a slew of bills that have been layering the Governor’s desk these past few weeks, one of the most contentious is AB 186.
Narrowly passing the assembly by a 42-30 vote with 8 abstentions, Assembly Bill 186 creates a 3-year pilot program allowing San Francisco to implement supervised drug consumption programs, otherwise known as safe injection sites. Authored by Assemblymember Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-San Francisco) and co-authored by Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), the bill would essentially allow addicts to consume their pre-obtained drugs in a safe environment with sterile consumption supplies and access to referrals for substance use disorder treatment. The bill would also exempt a person from existing criminal sanctions solely for actions or conduct on the site of a safer drug consumption services program.
San Francisco Mayor London Breed (D) said in a statement “With this final vote, AB 186 is one step away from being law,” before going on to say “Safe injection sites save lives. We are in a public health crisis and this bill will help us by preventing overdoses while connecting people to medical care that can help treat their addiction.”
This bill comes during a visible drug epidemic taking place not only in the city of San Francisco, but across the country. There are officially 39 needle exchange programs throughout various states, however fully functioning injection sites are far less common. If AB 186 is signed by the Governor it will be the first official site in California.
Although the main purpose of the sites is to prevent overdose and the potential spread of disease it is relatively unclear how the federal government views the entire concept. According to the NPR.org, “When officials with the Justice Department are asked where Sessions stands on the issue, they offer a statement issued late last year by a U.S. attorney in Vermont saying health workers at a supervised injection site would be vulnerable to criminal charges and the property could be at risk of being seized by federal law enforcement”. Similar to many states recent legalization of marijuana, this statement would infer a state’s rights vs federal government tribulation. The issue has yet to be determined in the courts; however this could very soon be a likely possibility.
In an effort to speed up an impending signature by the Governor, earlier this week Assemblymember Eggman, Senator Wiener, and Mayor Breed hosted a press conference urging Governor Brown to approve AB 186 immediately.
Although the Governor has until the end of September to sign all bills, he is expected to make a decision on this bill toward the end of next week.