June 13, 2022 By Wallin & Klarich

California’s Existing Controlled Substances Law 

Currently, California law prohibits possessing or using certain controlled substances. In severe cases, violation of such a statute can be charged as a felony punishable by up to 3 years in state prison. Additionally, existing law prohibits being in any room where controlled substances are being unlawfully used or maintaining a place for the purpose of using specified controlled substances. Those who violate the law risk forfeiting the property that is involved in the crime. 

However, these laws may be doing more harm than good. The legislature has declared overdose deaths in California to be an urgent public health crisis, finding that overdose has been the leading cause of accidental death in the United States and in California every year since 2011. In 2021, over 10,000 people in California and over 100,000 people in the United States died from a drug overdose. 

One proposed solution has been overdose prevention programs, which allow individuals to use drugs in a safe environment under the supervision of staff who are trained in preventing overdoses. In the United States, there are two safe consumption sites in New York City. Worldwide, there are hundreds of such sites in over a dozen countries. These sites have seen astonishing success, with no overdose deaths. In California, the last time safe consumption sites were proposed was in 2018, but the bill was vetoed by Governor Jerry Brown. 

SB-57 Controlled Substances: Overdose Prevention Program   

Now, California has advanced a new bill SB-57, once again bringing the idea of supervised injection sites to the table. This bill would authorize the cities and counties of San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Oakland to operate overdose prevention programs that satisfy the specified requirements. These requirements include but are not limited to: 

  • Providing a hygienic space to consume controlled substances under supervision of staff trained to prevent and treat drug overdoses 
  • Providing sterile consumption supplies 
  • Monitoring participants for potential overdose and providing care as necessary to prevent fatal overdose 
  • Providing access or referrals to substance use disorder treatment services, primary medical care, mental health services, and social services 
  • Providing reasonable security of the program site 
  • Establishing a plan for staff and workplace safety 

Furthermore, the bill would require each jurisdiction that chooses to participate in the overdose prevention program to choose an entity to conduct a peer-reviewed study. The purpose of the study is to evaluate the statewide efficacy of the programs and its community impacts. Any employees of such programs would be protected from arrest or civil penalties unless they perform in a grossly negligent manner or in bad faith. 

Not everyone is in support of this new bill. Many critics believe that there is, in reality, no safe way to do drugs, and that such sites would simply encourage open drug use. Others opt for alternatives such as court-ordered treatment. As of right now, the California state assembly must still pass the bill before it goes to Governor Gavin Newsom, who would decide whether or not to sign it into law. Pilot sites would then be set up and operate until January 1, 2027. If the bill passes, we can anticipate changes to how the use of controlled substances will be prosecuted in criminal law. 

Contact Wallin & Klarich Today 

If you have any questions about California’s new bill, or if you have been charged with possession of a controlled substance, contact our attorneys at Wallin & Klarich as soon as possible. With 40+ years of experience, Wallin & Klarich is your best choice amongst Southern California criminal defense firms. Our attorneys have helped thousands of clients with drug-related crimes, and we have the skills and resources to take on your case as well. We will answer any questions you have and guide you through the entire legal process so that you never have to worry. 

With offices in Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Victorville, Torrance, West Covina, Los Angeles, and San Diego, you are sure to find an available and convenient attorney near you. 

Discover how our team can assist you. Contact us today, toll-free at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free consultation with a skilled defense attorney.

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