Colorado Democrats advance bill that would create “safe injection sites” for illegal drug use

By Duncan Luning
A macro shot of syringe with needle

After seven hours of testimony on March 1, a Colorado House committee passed a bill that would allow “safe injection sites”. HB 1202, “Overdose Prevention Center Authorization”, would authorize a city to operate “an overdose prevention center within the city’s jurisdiction”. These centers are more commonly referred to as “safe injection sites” due to the nature of them. The purpose is to grant drug users a place where they can legally take illegal narcotics. 

According to a 2020 CDC report, there were almost 1,500 drug overdoses in Colorado. This is a 38% increase from the previous year. The rate of these drug overdoses is double that of COVID-19 deaths and quadruple the rate of homicides. On top of that, there has been an influx of fentanyl flowing through the southern border. In fact, fentanyl seizures have quadrupled.

When discussing the impact this bill would have going forward, Former U.S. Attorney for the District of Colorado Jason Dunn says that “What you’re going to have is a homeless population congregating around one of these sites, which will attract drug dealers, prostitution and violent crime. It has a serious negative impact on the community around it.”

 House Minority Whip Rep. Richard Holtorf was adamant in his opposition to this bill. “To say we’re going to make sure you safely continue your addictive habit is not a good policy. That makes no sense to try to facilitate safe illegal activity. It’s still illegal activity, so it needs to be treated as such and punished accordingly.” He said.  

 In his questioning of bill sponsor Rep. Elisabeth Epps (D), Rep. Holtorf raised the question of why Colorado should adopt a bill like this when even liberal Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed a similar bill in California. In response, Rep. Epps made the claim that “Our Governor in Colorado has an opportunity, and is going to come through and be a hero for us on this bill.” A spokesman for Gov. Polis said in a statement that “He would be deeply concerned with any approach that would contribute to more drug use and lawlessness.”

 HB 1202 passed the House Public & Behavioral Health & Human Services committee in a vote along party lines. This bill heads to the House floor. 

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About the Author:

Duncan Luning is Campfire Colorado’s Capitol Correspondent. Follow him on Twitter @DuncanLuning.