Could Maine Be First State to House Supervised Injection Sites?

A person holding an empty syringe that could be used at a safe injection site

Officials in Maine held a public hearing on April 1st of this year for a bill proposing the creation of two supervised injection sites. The bill launched speculation into whether Maine will be the first state to house supervised injection sites.

Supervised injection sites are places where recreational and illegal drugs can be used under supervision. These sites would have a half-mile safe zone in which people could not be charged for possessing or using illegal drugs. The injection site would provide a place where people would use drugs while staff with medical training can monitor them to ensure they do not overdose.

Those who support the creation of supervised injection sites claim that it would help to prevent overdose deaths by providing early recognition when someone overdoses. They believe that by monitoring the way that needles and drug paraphernalia are used, it can help to prevent infections such as hepatitis C and HIV. Supporters also claim that those using drugs in these sites may be able to be directed into treatment programs.

Residents who are against this bill argue that having supervised injection sites will promote illegal drug use. They point out that the idea of reducing drug use and creating a place to use drugs are contrary to each other. While they recognize the potential for supervised injection sites to reduce overdose and infection, they promote reducing drug use as a better way of achieving this goal.

The new governor of Maine, Janet Mills, does not support this bill. She argued that there are better ways to help manage the opioid crisis and that creating supervised injection sites is not a good option. Instead, Mills’ administration is working on a comprehensive drug reform package to reduce the use of opioids and other dangerous drugs in Maine.

Creating supervised injection sites is illegal and would be against federal law. Federal law makes the use of these drugs illegal and also makes it illegal to create a place that is intended to be utilized as a place to use drugs. A similar site in Philadelphia is being sued by the federal government, and the results of this case will likely determine whether supervised injection sites can be made legal in other states. These sites could be made legal if the courts find that the law should be applied differently or that it was not a valid law in the first place.

While it is possible Maine will ultimately end up creating the supervised injection sites proposed in the recent bill, the lack of support from the governor and questionable legality of the bill make this effort unlikely to succeed. 

 

Sources:

Miller, Kevin. “Advocates make case for bill to legalize ‘safe injection’ sites in Maine.” Portland Press Herald, April 2, 2019. Accessed June 11, 2019.

Flisiuk, Francis. “Why safe injection sites and drug decriminalization are “ruled out” of Gov. Mills’ opiate response plan.” February 28, 2019. Accessed June 11, 2019.

Allyn, Bobby. “U.S. Prosecutors Sue To Stop Nation’s First Supervised Injection Site For Opioids.” National Public Radio, February 6, 2019. Accessed June 11, 2019.