Philadelphia may soon be the first major city to reject safe injection sites in almost all of its city districts. Last Thursday, September 14, its City Council voted to enact a near total ban on supervised injection sites, places where people can go to use illegal drugs while being monitored by medical staff.
Councilmember Quetcy Lozada drafted the bill and lead City Council members to pass legislation banning drug use sites by a 13-to-1 vote. Lozada's district is the epicenter of the city’s opioid epidemic and has one of the nation’s largest open-air drug markets.
The city bill now goes to Mayor Jim Kenney. If the Mayor issues a veto, the bill will go back to city council, where his decision can be overridden with a 12-member supermajority.
Philadelphia does not have a safe consumption site. In 2019 the nonprofit Safehouse made plans to open one. Their case is still in litigation. If the ban holds, and Safehouse prevails, they’ll have a difficult time finding a location for their program.
West Philadelphia’s 3rd District is the only district not included in the ban. Councils have a tradition called councilmanic prerogative whereby each district Council member can decide whether to include their district in a zoning change. Third District’s Council member Jamie Gauthier chose to opt out saying residents should “decide for themselves whether they want life-saving overdoes prevention centers in their neighborhoods.”