IF SAN FRANCISCO attempts to move forward with establishing supervised injection facilities (SIFs), places where those addicted to drugs can safely shoot up, it will have to do so without the state government's blessing. In early October, Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed A.B. 186, a bill that would have authorized the city and county to create such facilities.
The sites, found in urban areas around the world but not yet in the United States, allow users to get high under the supervision of people who could help them in the event of an overdose. They also generally offer treatment options and access to social workers. In short, SIFs prioritize harm reduction over deterrence, and a 2014 report looking at 75 different studies found that the sites are successful in reducing the frequency of overdoses without leading to increases in drug use or crime.
San Francisco has an intravenous drug problem of epic proportions. Citizens have been posting videos on social media of users injecting drugs openly in transit stations; according to BuzzFeed, annual complaints about needles and medical waste on public streets jumped from 290 to more than 6,000 over the course of a decade. Civic leaders there had planned to open two SIFs in July, with private funders willing to foot the cost, but concerns remained that the sites' workers--many of them healthcare professionals--could be arrested for violating California laws that prohibit knowingly providing a room or building for the storage or use of drugs. Brown's veto makes such prosecutions more likely.
The ostensible reason for rejecting the bill is that California can't protect...