Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf speaks during the 2016 Cannabis Business Summit & Expo on June 22, 2016 in Oakland,

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Move To Open Site For Drug Users To Shoot Up Gathers Steam In Oakland

Carrie Hodousek
May 13, 2019 - 10:55 pm

Oakland city officials are considering a plan to open a safe injection site where intravenous drug users could get high. 

Supporters of the controversial idea say the move would lower open drug use on city streets. 

The decision to create a supervised shooting gallery would be up to state lawmakers to approve. But Mayor Libby Schaaf supports a city council resolution that would ask the state to include Oakland in a bill that would allow San Francisco to operate a safe injection facility. 

Charles Hawthorne, an official with Oakland's Harm Reduction Coalition, supports establishing the center.

"What we're trying to do is crate a space that we can destigmatize substance use, that we can give people access to the care that they need and that they want," Hawthorne said. 


Opponents said the center encourages drug use. Hawthorne said it would save lives by getting that activity off the streets.

"It does give us an opportunity to give people who are most marginalized a space to reduce the harm that can come from injecting drugs in public," said Hawthorne. Fewer people would get sick from infections or face arrest, he added. 

Mayor Libby Shaaf supports the move. A similar bill was vetoed by former Gov. Jerry Brown last year. Gov. Gavin Newsom has said he’s receptive to the idea.

The housing crisis has worsened the problem of open drug use on streets, leading to increased syringes found on sidewalks.

The city council is expected to vote on the resolution May 21.

Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the name of an organization that supports the creation of the safe injection facility. That group's name is the Harm Reduction Coalition. We regret the error. 

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