A member of California's state legislature introduced a bill on Tuesday that would allow people to use heroin, crack and other drugs at supervised clinics across the state, in a bid to tackle an uptick in overdoses driven by the heroin epidemic.
Cities like Seattle and New York City are considering similar measures, but none have yet been approved. Should the California bill pass into law, it would establish the country's first legal drug-injection sites, according to the Associated Press.
The author of the bill, Democratic Assemblywoman Susan Eggman, argued that the bill would help the state treat the heroin epidemic as a public health crisis rather than a criminal one.
"I know when you first hear about it, it's like, 'What? You're condoning drug use.' No, we're acknowledging people are dying on the streets," Eggman said Tuesday at the Assembly's public safety committee hearing in Sacramento, according to the Orange County Register. "In the U.S., we have chosen to treat addiction from a criminal perspective. It's high time we start treating it like a public health issue."
The facilities that would offer addicts the ability to shoot up legally would be supervised by medical professionals, who would be able to use the situation to minimize the riskiness of use and offer drug treatment services.
Eggman was joined in Sacramento by a senator from Canada, Larry Campbell, who helped establish North America's only legal drug-injection sites in Vancouver, Canada, when he was the city's mayor.
"The drug is illegal, but the person who's using that drug is suffering from a recognized medical disease," Campbell said, according to the AP. "What this does is simply treat the addiction, keep somebody alive and keep them off the streets."
Campbell said that the facility has overseen millions of injections with no deaths among users at the facility, and it has saved the state millions in health care costs.
Eggman's proposal has received strong pushback from the law enforcement community in California, who claim that the legal injection sites will only encourage more drug use.
Allowing people to use certain drugs at clinics legally in the United States would be unprecedented, and the effect it would have on drug use is difficult to predict. But so far there's little evidence that the way the war on drugs is being waged at the moment is working.