In the shadows near Skid Row, what looks like a storefront is actually a place where addicts come to get clean needles and detox medication.
But it’s not a safe injection site; California doesn’t have any of those yet.
Democratic Sen. Scott Wiener of San Francisco wants to change that.
“Right now, people are using drugs on our streets, shooting up in plain sight, in front of our kids, in our parks and near our businesses,” said Wiener.
The California Legislature has passed his bill to legalize drug injection sites. If Gov. Gavin Newsom signs it, L.A. could become one of three California cities to open the supervised sites.
“The goal here is to get them to go inside, into a safe, healthy clean setting,” Wiener said.
The facilities would be staffed with clinicians who can administer life saving overdose drugs. Similar clinics are already operating in Rhode Island and New York City. Critics, however, say it’s the wrong approach to curb illegal drug use.
“Addicts are not good at delayed gratification. If I’ve got my needle, if I’m got my drugs, I’m going to shoot up wherever I am,” said John Lovell, a legislative advocate for the California Narcotics Officers’ Association.
Law enforcement warns that areas with the facilities are often flooded with even more illegal drugs.
“One of the first things that happens is drug traffickers come into the area because that’s where the customers are drawn,” Lovell said.
The law would allow for a five-year pilot program in three California cities: L.A., Oakland and San Francisco.
The L.A. City Council and County Board of Supervisors would have to approve.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recorded more than 10,000 California drug overdose deaths in 2021 — an increase of 29% from the year before.
Sen. Wiener says what the state is doing right now is not working and safe injection sites could save lives.
“People are still using drugs, people are still getting addicted, people are still dying,” Wiener said. “The war on drugs has been an abysmal failure and a massive waste of taxpayer dollars.”
The bill will now head to the governor’s desk by the end of the week and he will have 12 days to act on it.
Newsom has not indicated if he plans to sign the legislation, but he has shown support for similar bills in the past.