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San Francisco Safe Injection Bill Passes Calif. Legislature; DOJ Threatens Prosecution

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- The California Legislature on Monday passed Assembly Bill 186, which would give the green light for safe injection sites in San Francisco under a three-year pilot.

Amid a visible drug crisis happening in the city, safe injection sites would allow for people suffering from addiction to use drugs at facilities under the supervision of trained staff.

The bill now heads to Gov. Jerry Brown for his signature. However, in an op-ed piece in the New York Times, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said that "cities and counties should expect the Department of Justice to meet the opening of any injection site with swift and aggressive action" and warned that establishing a site "for the purpose of facilitating illicit drug use" could lead to criminal prosecution, lengthy prison sentences, fines and property seizure.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed, whose younger sister died from a drug overdose, said she was willing to take on the DOJ over the issue.

"With this final vote, AB 186 is one step away from being law," San Francisco Mayor London Breed said in a statement. "Safe injection sites save lives. We are in a public health crisis and this bill will help us by preventing overdoses while connecting people to medical care that can help treat their addiction."

On Wednesday, Breed is set to visit a full-scale model of a safe injection site at the Glide Foundation in the city's Tenderloin neighborhood. The model, called Safer Inside, is equipped with supervised injection booths, medical equipment, trained staff and a clinical area that provides users with access to health care and harm reduction services.

Breed has been a longtime advocate for safe injection sites. During her time as supervisor, Breed led a task force which estimated in a September 2017 report that the city could save around $3.5 million a year by opening a safe injection site because of reduced health care costs and increased drug treatment uptake.

The bill was co-authored by Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, along with Assemblymember Susan Eggman, D-Stockton, Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, and Assemblymember Laura Friedman, D-Glendale.

Last week in a statement Wiener said, "People are injecting drugs whether or not we intervene. They're injecting on our sidewalks and parks, in transit stations and alleyways and on people's front steps."

Wiener added, "Safe injection sites provide people with an opportunity to inject in a clean, safe environment, with healthcare personnel available to prevent overdoses, and with an opportunity to offer people addiction, healthcare, housing and other services."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the leading cause of accidental deaths nationwide is drug overdoses.

In places like Canada and Europe, safe injection sites have been shown to prevent overdose deaths, reduce the spread of diseases such as hepatitis C and HIV, and help get users into services such as drug treatment programs.

© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Bay City News Service contributed to this report.

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