California Legislation Would Create ‘Safe Sites’ for Drug Use and Lower Penalties for Some Drug Offenses

California state Senator Scott Wiener introduced Senate Bill 57 which authorizes the City and County of San Francisco, the County of Los Angeles and the City of Oakland to create “hygienic” spaces, “supervised by trained staff where people who use drugs can consume preobtained drugs.”

Wiener also introduced Senate Bill 73, allowing judges to grant probation or suspend sentences for certain drug crimes, ending mandatory prison sentences for those crimes. The lower sentencing standards include crimes such as the sale, possession and transport of opiates or opium derivatives; planting or cultivating peyote; and possession or sale of 14.25 grams or more of heroin or phencyclidine – also known as “angel dust” or PCP.

According to the California Family Council, a Focus on the Family-affiliated organization, Wiener made election promises to “decriminalize all drug use,” end the “War on Drugs,” and put an end to “mass incarceration.” CFC also says the senator has promised to “legalize all psychedelic drugs such as LSD and magic mushrooms.”

SB 57, titled “Controlled substances: overdose prevention program (OPP),” also provides drug users with “sterile consumption supplies,” and offers “access or referrals to substance use disorder treatment.” The bill says OPPs “are an evidence-based harm reduction strategy” used in 10 countries around the world and argues that they “are effective in reducing overdose deaths and HIV transmission, and in increasing access to counseling, treatment, and other risk reduction services.”

“Research has also demonstrated that OPPs decrease use of emergency medical services, reduce public drug use, reduce syringe debris, and do not increase crime or drug use,” the bill says.

Christopher Rufo, Visiting Fellow for Domestic Policy Studies at the Heritage Foundation, disagrees. He writes, “Safe injection sites have an extremely poor record of moving drug users into treatment and recovery, with some referral rates as low as 1%.” He cites a “bombshell report” out of Alberta, Canada, which “showed the sites did not reduce overall overdose deaths or opioid-related emergency calls” and “led to an increase in crime, discarded needles and social disorder in surrounding neighborhoods.”

Rufo reports there is a growing backlash against the sites, which are placed in neighborhoods “with little public input, creating problems for long-time residents.”

As for SB 73, California Family Council (CFC) says that Wiener is disingenuous in describing the legislation. They explain that the state senator focuses on the users and addicts who won’t have mandatory prison sentences.

“Yet pull up the language of the bill and you will see the text also removes minimum sentencing for ‘possessing for sale,’ ‘forging or altering prescriptions,’  and ‘agreeing to sell or transport’ hard drugs. Wiener obviously isn’t eager to reveal his bill removes mandatory jail time for drug dealers, but that is what his bill does,” the group reports.

CFC Director of Capitol Engagement Greg Burt says the legislation doesn’t make sense. “How is it that California is considering legalizing LSD or lowering criminal penalties for heroin dealers, while at the same time it outlaws single-use plastic bags, curbs the use of plastic straws, or seeks to eliminate fossil fuels we all depend upon because of their danger to humans and nature?”

Wiener says the “War on Drugs” must be ended, since it has “been widely acknowledged as a racist policy failure given its foundational role in building the system of mass incarceration that exists in the United States.”

Burt responded, “Shouldn’t the government protect us from drug cartels notorious for getting rich on the backs of the destroyed lives of every race? If you care about protecting racial minorities, shouldn’t you outlaw drugs that are killing them at higher rates?”

Photo from Wikipedia

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