Sessions' Escalating Drug War Causing Cold Feet Over Safe Injection Centers

San Francisco was supposed to have sites up and running this month. It does not.


London Breed
Yichuan Cao/Sipa USA/Newscom

Privately operated, privately funded safe injection sites were supposed to open in San Francisco this month, allowing addicts to use drugs safely in a place where they can be monitored to prevent overdoses. These were going to be the first safe injection centers to open in the United States.

But no facilities have opened yet. The newly elected mayor, London Breed, supports the injection facilities as a way to help clean up the city. (Residents have been sending the local media picture of drug needles found at local train stations.) But for now, she and the city are taking a step back and instead opening a "demonstration" injection center at a church, so that members of the community can see what they're actually like before one opens.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the mock site will be open to visitors at the end of August. Clearly the city will miss its July deadline.

Chronicle columnists Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross say there's more to this delay than just easing community fears about injection centers. City Hall sources told them that City Attorney Dennis Herrera is deeply concerned that the city could be found legally liable for allowing injection facilities to operate:

One City Hall source privy to the conversations told us Herrera was particularly worried about the threats from the Trump administration to go after drug dealers and new guidelines issued by Attorney General Jeff Sessions in March applying the death penalty to numerous drug-related crimes under existing law.

"The threats from his government are no joke, and the city attorney advised (Farrell and other city officials) that heroin is a Schedule 1 drug…with a lot of legal liability," said the source, who was not authorized to speak for the record. "San Francisco's public health director could wind up being put in jail" for allowing people to shoot up, no matter the surroundings.

Recall that under President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder, the Department of Justice continued to shut down and charge people involved in medical marijuana operations with federal crimes in California for years before they backed off. And the Sessions Justice Department has been openly hostile to non-punitive responses to drug issues.

San Francisco isn't the only place that seems to be getting cold feet about moving forward with the injection centers. NPR notes that 13 different communities are considering sites but are worrited about what the Justice Department might do. Nobody wants to be the first:

Scott Burris, director of Temple University's Center for Public Health Law Research, says municipalities are worried about a showdown with Jeff Sessions' Department of Justice.

"You can talk about cities racing to be first," Burris says. "But my guess is that you have a lot of cities who are actually racing to be second."

Last December the U.S. Attorney's Office in Vermont put out a statement warning against safe injection sites, stating that they "would violate several federal criminal laws, including those prohibiting use of narcotics and maintaining a premises for the purpose of narcotics use. It is a crime, not only to use illicit narcotics, but to manage and maintain sites on which such drugs are used and distributed. Thus, exposure to criminal charges would arise for users and [safe injection site] workers and overseers. The properties that host [safe injection sites] would also be subject to federal forfeiture."

Reason's Mike Riggs has blasted the U.S. attorney's completely incorrect claims that injection facilities encourage dangerous drug use and lead to more overdoses.

The government may be wrong on the facts and the science, but it's the one with the guns and the prison cells. Last week Sessions announced an opioid prosecution "surge": He is ordering prosecutors in 10 federal districts to go after every single synthetic opioid dealer they can get their hands on. He is making it clear that he has a hammer-nail approach to the opioid crisis, and the last thing any injection facility owner would want is to be perceived as a nail.

That injection sites would probably do a better job of reducing drug overdose deaths than this cruel enforcement scheme. Sessions does not appear able to process that possibility. So even if San Francisco believes injection sites would actually help clean the place up, officials have to be wary about a harsh response from the Justice Department if they actually try it.

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  1. “The newly elected mayor, London Breed, supports the injection facilities as a way to help clean up the city.”

    And she supports funding free housing for bums by selling purple unicorns.
    Don’t know about the ‘safe injection sites’; pretty sure that isn’t a propor government function, but using Breed’s hogwash about anything is as reliable as taking Obama’s word on ‘keeping your doctor’.

    1. What’s not a proper government function exactly?

      1. Enumerated powers not listed in state and the US Constitution.

        1. The first thing after the preamble (which literally thanks “Almighty God” for freedom) of the California constitution is: “All people are by nature free and independent and have inalienable rights. Among these are enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and pursuing and obtaining safety, happiness, and privacy.”

          So, obviously no one in the state reads the thing.

          1. Of course not; how can you reconcile gun control or abortion rights and “defending life”?

        2. Enumerated powers only apply to the federal government. States and localities can do whatever they want (within the 14th amendment, that is).

          You really need to brush up on your ConLaw.

    2. You obviously haven’t looked at all into her housing policy.

      Why is arresting elected officials providing for the health and safety of their citizens the purview of the federal government?

      1. ^I don’t think this idiot knows Sevo’s background. Let’s watch!

  2. Breed plans to make the announcement during Sunday services at Glide Memorial Methodist Church in the Tenderloin, where the mock safe injection site will be housed and open to the public

    I’m sure the mock *injectees* will be acceptable to the public.

    1. Cannot fathom why Christianity isn’t kicking ass and taking names in SF…

  3. Lets be honest, what are the odd’s that San Francisco didn’t meet this goal for entirely unrelated reasons but this is a far easier excuse than ‘we’re incompetent boobs’ or ‘ the general public hates this idea’?

  4. NPR notes that 13 different communities are considering sites but are worrited about what the Justice Department might do.

    I believe that’s a cover story. I have greater suspicion that they’re scared shitless of what their constituents might do.

    1. The California Senate rejected a law allowing municipalities to operate shooting galleries. Which district does Jeff Sessions represent?

  5. Why does anyone still live in San Francisco? I would never want to live near a place where homeless people can congregate and get high.

    I dont think the government should be banning ‘safe injections spots’ but the state can certainly regulate them.

    Just because I am for 100% drug legalization does not mean that I want vagrant shitbirds who dont own land to be fucking my town up.

    1. I assume you feel the same way about alcohol injection sites.

      1. When alcoholics start coming out of the Scotch and Vine and literally shitting in the street, a lot of localities want those shut down too.

        1. In retrospect, prohibiting alcohol sales seems like an obvious solution to the problems caused by alcohol consumption. I wonder why no one ever thought of it before.

          1. Funny the fine leaders of our fair municipalities take a rather schizophrenic view of the whole thing.

    2. It’s the most vibrant city in the country, warts and all.
      Our communists provide better job than your libertarians.
      The culture is incredible.
      The weather is the best. Our heat waves are when it breaks 80, our cold snaps is when it gets down to 50.
      We have the ocean, wine country, national parks, the bay, Tahoe, Yosemite.
      Our state government protects our rights. We get paid family leave, mandated sick leave, top public universities, incredible parks.
      The restaurant scene is only rivaled by New York.
      The biggest frustration is housing cost. I keep thinking about leaving the bay area, but I try to think of another city that would be as perfect for me and my family as Berkeley. I’ve come up empty.

      1. 1. Not even close.

        2. Not even close. Silicon Valley is, as you might know, *not in San Fransisco*. For a reason. And there’s no other unique industry there.

        3. Sure. So is it in thousands of places across the country. Oh, you mean ‘artists’ supported by coerced taxpayers? Yeah, I think NYC could still give you a run for your money there.

        4. The weather there is miserable for 6 months out of the year. Cold and wet. The other 6 months its just wet.

        5. Woopdedo. nothing particularly unique there.

        6. Your state government takes from other people, at the point of a gun, to givw yoyu ‘free shit’. Not protecting rights. You want family leave? Yoi can take that in every state of the union.

        1. I didn’t say Silicon Valley. There are a lot of good, high paying jobs here.
          Gap, Levi’s, Gymboree, Sephora, Method are all based in the City.
          Bechtel, Dolby Labs, Industrial Light & Magic (STAR WARS!) in the City.
          Schwab, Wells Fargo.

          That’s not including any of the dot-coms based in the city.

          I mean….you say it’s always wet. It goes six months without raining. Have you ever been here?

          I know it really pisses you off how many people want to live in the communist shithole that’s San Francisco, but we can’t fit them all here. The biggest problem is that we don’t build enough houses.

      2. Happy, my state doesn’t have issues with twenty pound bags of human shit being left on the road and staying there for a while.

        My state doesn’t have apps to help you find the roads to avoid due to a lot of shit and needles on the road.

        Your city cannot handle the most fundamental obligations of a government.

  6. Grow a pair of balls, pussies. (Now let that picture form in your head.)

    You’ve already defied the feds on pot and immigration. Is this so different?

    Maybe fear of the feds is just an excuse.

    1. Grow a pair of balls, pussies. (Now let that picture form in your head.)

      You basically just put out a Yellow Tony signal.

  7. The problem with these things is even if they “work”, nobody in their right mind wants one anywhere near them. The one in Vancouver has by all accounts turned the neighborhood into a shithole.

    1. You have to define “work”, which is touchy in and of itself. They successfully revive a significant number of the addicts who OD that made it to the site and bother to use the services.

      Vancouver’s insite saw a dramatic increase in overall overdose deaths after opening Insite. After promising a dramatic drop in overdose deaths, the but-for arguments started rolling in.

      Everyone around Insite, including those that support it admit that the entire neighborhood is hell hole. Seattle promises that they’ll do safe-injection sites differently, avoiding the hellish landscape around Vancouver’s insite.

      Given how they’ve handled (read: created) the homeless crisis, no one believes them.

      1. Vancouver’s insite saw a dramatic increase in overall overdose

        That wasn’t clear: Vancouver as a city saw a dramatic increase in overall overdose deaths– not the insight facility.

        1. That’s not what actual research finds. Immediately after the opening, deaths decreased across the city, with a much larger decrease in the immediate surrounding area.

          No research has found an increase of crime in the immediate neighborhood. It was already a bad neighborhood, being that one would open a safe injection site in an area with a large population of IV drug users.

          1. Addicts dying is bad how exactly?

            1. If they’re dying because they are prevented from buying a known version of the drug by the long dick of the state, then the long dick of the state holds some culpability.

              1. +1 this. Actually +100

            2. It’s expensive and not a pleasant addition to the city scape.

          2. Longer term statistics show otherwise.

            In Vancouver alone, the number of overdose deaths attributed to illicit drug use climbed from 100 in 2014 to 231 last year. The number this year is expected to reach 400, according to the B.C. Coroners Service.

            And as I said, “the but-for arguments started rolling in.

            They blame the increase in other factors such as the rise of fentanyl. Unfortunately, if you claim your efforts will show a reduction of a thing, and that thing gets worse, that’s a failed prediction.

            1. In 2008, the Conservatives refused to extend Insite’s Health Canada temporary exemption. The same year, the government’s expert committee released a number of findings: no evidence of increased drug trafficking, loitering or petty crime in the vicinity of Insite; no increase in the amount of open drug use in the area around the facility. What’s more, the committee determined that Insite was cost-effective. Providing drug users with sterile equipment and clean facilities and treating overdoses in the premises had actually saved taxpayers’ dollars, while reducing workloads for paramedics and hospital emergency room staff.

              Page three shows the rate excluding fentanyl, which is steady. The increase is entirely due to fentanyl. It is something that has hit every province and state. Trying to pin that on the safe injection site is strange.

              Also, supposed libertarians calling for federal agents to arrest people trying to allow people to do what they want is strange.

              1. But if “safe” sites still have the identical problem and nothing gets BETTER — per your own stats — they are useful…how?

          3. Also, crime has gone up.

            Theft and violent crime in the Downtown Eastside have gone up since 2002. And as an overdose crisis sweeps Canada, Vancouver is its undisputed epicentre. Even with teams of naloxone-armed paramedics addressing a nightly rush of overdosed drug users, more than 100 people have died of overdoses in 2017 ? with most of these occurring within the narrow borders of the Downtown Eastside.

            And yes, you are correct, it was already a bad neighborhood which brings me to another issue I’ve raised previously. By putting the safe site there, it’s arguable that they condemned the neighborhood to permanent status of drugs and poverty. If you had or were trying to run a business there, well, you get the idea.

            I’m not against the idea of safe injection sites, but I’m highly critical of the reality of them, especially with the examples I’ve seen.

            They want to put them here, and the supporters of such local sites are very quick to say they DON’T want it to be like insite.

      2. The politicians define “work” as having something they can point to at the next election.
        After that election doesn’t matter.

  8. If you’re an addict people will give you free needles, free methadone, and build safe places for you to shoot up.
    If you’re a Type I diabetic and can’t afford needles and insulin required for the continuation of life – tough shit.
    Maybe America has so many destructive behaviors because the wrong ones are rewarded.

    1. I agree! We need Medicare for All!

      1. How about no.

    2. Try http://www.benefits.gov

      Not sure what state you are in, but under medical assistance there were 104 entries for Florida.
      And that is before private assistance programs, and the BS “help” from the drug companies trying to stave off federal takeovers.
      You are not really trying.
      And technically, the health insurance you are required by law to have covers diabetic supplies.

  9. SISs are a bad idea. They perpetuate the misery of the addict by giving up on them and expect that there is no help for them except to die an eventual early death. The 100% “positive” studies for SISs are unscientific at best, self-serving at worse. They increase public overdoses, public deaths, public use, needle litter, homelessness, crime.

    My arguments against SISs are in the comment section here. I also include more positive scenarios for user/addicts by experts in the field:


  10. San Francisco cannot keep human shit off their streets.

    You trust them to run an injection site without massive problems socially?

  11. “That injection sites would probably do a better job of reducing drug overdose deaths than this cruel enforcement scheme. Sessions does not appear able to process that possibility.”

    Why do you assume that Sessions wants to decrease overdose deaths?

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