HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania’s state Senate on Monday approved legislation to ban so-called safe injection sites, after Philadelphia became the center of a legal battle over opening safe havens where opioid users could legally inject heroin and other drugs under supervision as a way to reduce overdoses.
The bill passed, 41-9, with every Republican in favor of it and nine of 22 Democrats against it.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Christine Tartaglione, D-Philadelphia, said she supports recovery and harm-reduction efforts, such as needle exchanges and mobile methodone units, but not what she called “programs that perpetuate addiction without a path to recovery.”
Sen. Nikil Saval, D-Philadelphia, said efforts to ban the centers are based on misconceptions that they provide drugs or contribute to crime. Rather, the centers are sanitary and staffed by professionals who save lives by connecting addicts to treatment and services that can help them and reduce pressure on police and emergency responders, Saval said.
Gov. Josh Shapiro, a Democrat, has said he opposes safe injection sites. The subject has divided Democrats, making it unlikely that the bill will come up in the Democratic-controlled state House of Representatives.
The U.S. Department of Justice in 2021 won a lawsuit when the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia rejected a plan to open a supervised injection site in the city. The court concluded the operation would violate a 1980s-era drug law aimed at “crackhouses.”
The U.S. Supreme Court declined to take the case. The Justice Department has since said it is “evaluating” such facilities and talking to regulators about “appropriate guardrails.”
Rhode Island and New York City have allowed their use while the governors of California and Vermont each vetoed safe injection sites bill last summer.