SF Drug Injection Site Looks More Feasible After Court Ruling

KCBS Radio Morning News
February 27, 2020 - 11:40 am
Court ruling in Philadelphia could open door for safe injection site in San Francisco

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

A barrier to opening a safe injection site in San Francisco may have been weakened after a federal judge ruled in favor of opening the country’s first such facility in Philadelphia.

U.S. District Judge Gerald McHugh ruled Tuesday that a proposed safe injection site by the nonprofit Safehouse does not violate the federal Controlled Substances Act. The nonprofit plans to open the site early next month.

Proponents say it would lower the amount of overdose fatalities, but critics, including the Trump administration, believe the facilities will encourage crime and drug use.

“Sadly people don’t need encouragement. It’s happening now,” said Safehouse Vice President and co-founder Ronda Goldfein. “People are shooting drugs between parked cars and in alleys and in fast food restaurants, so they don’t really need encouragement. And there’s nothing glamorous about what’s happening in Philadelphia.”

San Francisco officials have made several attempts in recent years to open a similar site where addicts can use drugs under medical supervision, but have faced significant legal barriers.

“The Trump administration has been threatening legal action for operating a safe injection site, so that’s a threat that we have to be very mindful of,” said state Sen. Scott Wiener, who represents San Francisco and supports safe injection sites.

Goldfein says McHugh’s ruling opens a door in San Francisco. “If San Francisco tried the same thing, even without the benefit of a court order, do we think that the U.S. attorney in your district would take action? Or would this signal a little bit of a stand-down?”

Wiener is optimistic about changing California laws to allow the facilities but says despite the recent ruling, overcoming federal barriers will still be tough.

“It is a persuasive authority and it definitely provides more support for the notion that we absolutely can open a safe injection site and can defend ourselves against the federal government,” said Wiener. “But it’s not an iron-clad defense.”

Reported by Kathy Novak