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CA Legislature Considers Fighting Drug Overdose Crisis with “All Carrot and No Stick”

You would think with drug overdose deaths in the US now topping 100,000 per year, state governments would be clamping down harder than ever on an industry that is killing people with dangerously addictive narcotics. But that isn’t how state legislators in California are dealing with the problem.  Senators like Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), have been pushing legislators toward decriminalizing all drug use and ending what he calls the failed “war on drugs.” 

So far the legislature is moving in Wiener’s direction. 

Last week, he finally got the Senate and the Assembly to approve, SB 57, a pilot program to let San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Oakland set up sites where drug addicts can bring and take their own illegal drugs, like heroin, methamphetamine, and fentanyl, with medical personnel on hand to save them if they start overdosing. The centers will also provide “sterile consumption supplies, providing access or referrals to substance use disorder treatment.” 

The bill only passed by one vote in the Senate and by two votes in the Assembly. It will now be up to Governor Gavin Newsom to decide if the bill becomes law. Former Governor Jerry Brown vetoed a similar bill sponsored by Senators Eggman and Wiener, AB 186, back in 2018.

In his veto message Brown explained his decision. “Fundamentally, I do not believe that enabling illegal drug use in government sponsored injection centers — with no corresponding requirement that the user undergo treatment — will reduce drug addiction,” he wrote. “Both incentives and sanctions are needed. One without the other is futile.”

“Our paramount goal must be to reduce the use of illegal drugs and opioids that daily enslaves human beings and wreaks havoc in our communities,” stated Brown. “California has never had enough drug treatment programs and does not have enough now. Residential, outpatient and case management-all are needed, voluntarily undertaken or coercively imposed by our courts.

"Enabling illegal and destructive drug use will never work. The community must have the authority and the laws to require compassionate but effective and mandatory treatment. AB 186 is all carrot and no stick."

Former CA Governor Jerry Brown Tweet

Senator Wiener on the other hand, wants to get rid of all the sticks that would punish drug dealers and users, including mandatory treatment for addicts. He plans to legalize step by step all drugs, starting with psychedelics. “Decriminalizing psychedelics is simply one step in ending the War on Drugs,” Wiener tweeted back in 2020 regarding his bill, SB 519, to legalize the recreational use of drugs such as LSD, Magic Mushrooms, and Ecstasy.

“We ultimately need to decriminalize all drug use and stop putting people in prison for drug use and possession. We’re working on all of this. But for now, let’s get it done with psychedelics.”

Wieners bill, SB 519, has already passed the Senate and is currently under consideration in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.  If the bill makes it out of this committee by this Thursday, the full Assembly and the Senate will have to vote on it again by the end of the month in order for the bill to make it to the governor’s desk for a decision. 

Take Action

  1. Click on the link below to get connected with your Assembly Member:
    Tell them, “Don’t Legalize LSD: Vote NO on SB 519

  2. Contact Governor Gavin Newsom and ask him to veto the “Illicit Drug Injection Site” bill, SB 57. Call this office at (916) 445-2841 or email him. 

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