Many US cities, such as San Francisco, New York City and Philadelphia, are considering opening Safe Injection Sites for drug users, despite the open anger of the Federal Government. The defenders of these sites argue that drug use is a reality, a sad reality, but a reality nonetheless. These sites would try to reduce the harm addicts face by providing clean needles, health information and medical care in the event of an overdose. It is also argued that a more compassionate approach to the drug problem will be more effective at bringing people to recovery.
“We know from every other city and country-Australia, Canada, Europe-every other place that does this-has succeeded. Safe injection Sites lower crime rates, lower infection rates, get people into recovery. This is exactly where we should be going…We are urging our great friend Governor Brown to sign AB 186,” California State Senator Scott Wiener said in a press conference.
Despite his optimism, at this time there is no strong scientific consensus on how effective these sites are.
The US Attorney’s Office regards these proposals both as unlawful and as bad policy. A statement regarding a proposed initiative in Vermont says, “As to policy, the proposed government-sanctioned sites would encourage and normalize heroin use, thereby increasing demand for opiates and, by extension, risk of overdose and overdose deaths… Such facilities would also threaten to undercut existing and future prevention initiatives by sending exactly the wrong message to children in Vermont: the government will help you use heroin.”
Scott Wiener in the aforementioned Press Conference that “[San Francisco is] not scared to push the envelope of public health policy even if…the Federal Government threatens us with criminal prosecution…We did it with needle exchange…we did it with medical cannabis…these are all situations where we were being threatened by the Federal Government…but we persevered…[and] down the line needle exchange is being done in a lot of places, medical cannabis is being embraced even in Republican states.”
Whether this idea ultimately triumphs or falters, there are sure to be many standoffs between the States and the Federal Government in the meantime.