Concerns Regarding Opening a Supervised Injection Site in San Francisco
In January 2023, the Executive Director of New York’s OnPoint testified to San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors regarding their Harlem supervised injection site, known as “the New York model.”
In his testimony, Sam Rivera reiterated the false claim of overwhelmingly positive feedback from the community for the supervised injection site. He cited multiple parties who believe that the site is “amazing.” Click here to view the 1st agenda item.
The Greater Harlem Coalition dialed in to accurately describe Harlem’s community feedback and describe the impact of locating a supervised injection site within 2 blocks of 4,250 Harlem school children. We hope that San Francisco can hear from actual community members and not just the executive director of OnPoint. Ultimately, the Greater Harlem Coalition would like to present a more balanced perspective on the lived experience of New York’s supervised injection site so San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors and residents could benefit from our lessons learned.
Not all parties in San Francisco are thrilled with the idea of opening supervised injection sites. Soon after OnPoint’s testimony, the California Narcotic Officers’ Association wrote the following informative letter to the Supervisors:
“January 20, 2023
MEMORANDUM TO: HONORABLE MAYOR BREED AND
HONORABLE SUPERVISORS OF SAN FRANCISCO
FROM: JOHN LOVELL, LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL OF THE CALIFORNIA
NARCOTIC OFFICERS’ ASSOCIATION
SUBJECT: PLEASE STOP PUSHING FOR ILLEGAL DRUG INJECTION SITES
Mayor Breed and San Francisco Supervisors,
The California Narcotic Officers’ Association (CNOA) represents over five thousand men and women responsible for the enforcement of California and Federal Controlled Substance laws. It is indeed very dangerous work – over 80 names on California’s Peace Officer Memorial Wall are members of CNOA. Three of our Presidents have given their lives as well.
We are disturbed that after the veto by two California Governors and the 8-year continuous defeat of the bill for illegal drug injection sites, you still announced to open up such site. This bespeaks a disregard for Governor Newsom’s well reasoned veto message. Injection sites are in violation of both state and federal law, reports of the British Columbia Coroner and other evidence elsewhere have conclusively demonstrated that injection sites do not serve their stated purpose but are worsening the drug problem instead. The claim that injection sites reduce the number of overdose deaths is an intentional misstatement.
In fact, the British Columbia Coroner has unambiguously found that overdose deaths in the orbit of their injection site HAS INCREASED BY 1,000% IN THE EIGHTEEN YEARS THEIR INJECTION SITE HAS BEEN OPERATIVE. This is the pattern throughout the world. In addition, collateral evidence of CONSUMPTION, CRIME RATE, AND HOMELESS PROBLEM in various countries has been partners in misery at injection sites in the world! (see research)
CNOA strongly opposes your plan to establish illegal drug injection or consumption sites, regardless of whether they are operated by non-profits or not, which will render San Francisco a magnet for drug dealers and drug addicts in connection with hard drugs and set a bad precedent for other cities. Please, let us not replicate the British Columbia tragedy.
We in the last five years or more presented different evidence repeatedly, mostly from official sources, substantiating that illegal drug injection sites actually caused big increases in drug dealing, drug consumption, and crimes in various countries instead. Why did you ignore this concrete evidence? Why did you not offer any explanation on this evidence but simply impose your own will on citizens?
Your claim that injection sites will reduce drug overdose death is factually wrong. To reiterate again, Vancouver, after eighteen years of operations of such a site, had an approximate 1,000% increase in drug overdose death (from 172 to 1723) as reflected by the statistics of British Columbia Coroners Service.
Similar situation applies to Europe and Australia, for example, according to European Center for Monitoring Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMDDA), overdose drug deaths actually doubled five years after the introduction of injection sites in the Netherlands. It was more than double again twenty years later. Australia businessmen actually demanded the government to compensate to the businesses within 1km of the injection site for their losses due to the site.
The key problem is injection sites do not require the drug addicts to have drug treatment after getting injection at the site. Thus, it simply encourages drug addiction and fosters the growth of drug dealing. Only about 5% of the site users use the injection site regularly, others mainly shoot up near the site and thus defeating the purpose. Moreover, drug addicts injected with fentanyl are a serious threat to both ordinary citizens and police officers especially in a relatively compact environment in San Francisco. Governor Jerry Brown vetoed a state injection site bill in 2018 and reiterated, “I repeat, enabling illegal and destructive drug use will never work.”
Importantly, establishing illegal drug injection site is a flagrant violation of Controlled Substances Act and violators will be charged for felony. Even citizens can sue the operators of such site(s), regardless of whether they are non-profit or not, based on Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act (RICO) and possibly be compensated as much as three times their losses. It is illogical and unwise to assume that nobody will file a legal challenge against the injection or consumption site(s) which can be taken down by a lawsuit to the federal court. The Third Circuit Court has already issued a precedent on this and U.S. Supreme Court refused to take the appeal from the proponents of injection site. It is also not sagacious to assume that the U.S. Attorney General will never intervene especially with the possible change after the 2024 presidential election.
Your attempt to create city ordinance for the opening of illegal drug injection sites by non-profit organizations still violates both federal and state law and places both the non-profit organizations and the city on vulnerable territory. The fact that the operators are non-profit groups will not help your case.
We urge you to stop pushing forward the illegal idea of opening drug injection or consumption facilities. A responsible government should accentuate on drug treatment/rehabilitation and enhancement of law enforcement instead to puzzle out the drug problems.
Should any city in California ignore the laws to forcefully open illegal drug injection or consumption site(s), CNOA reserves the right to take appropriate and necessary actions within the legal parameters to solve this problem. I am available to discuss this further if you so desire, my email is email@example.com and my number is 916-261-7188. Thank you.”