The Maine Senate narrowly voted down a bill on Tuesday that would allow cities and towns to authorize safe consumption sites for drug use.

Senators voted 18-16 against the bill proposed by Grayson Lookner, D-Portland.

Lookner and other supporters viewed the bill as a way to reduce opioid overdose deaths, a crisis that has ravaged the state for nearly a decade and claimed a record 716 lives last year.

L.D. 1364 called for allowing cities and towns to approve sites where people could use heroin and other illegal drugs under the supervision of medical staff, who could revive them if they overdosed.

Eight Democrats joined 10 Republicans in voting against the legislation.

The Senate action comes just five days after the House voted 77-66, mostly along party lines, to support the legislation. It’s not clear whether Gov. Janet Mills, a former longtime prosecutor, would have signed or vetoed the bill.


Despite Tuesday’s defeat, the legislation will face further scrutiny.

Legislators may consider an amendment that would replace the bill with a resolve directing the Governor’s Office of Policy Innovation and the Future to convene a working group to study the feasibility of creating harm reduction health centers in Maine. The group would be required to submit a report of its findings on or before Feb. 15, 2024.

The proposed amendment defines a harm reduction health center as a facility that provides health screenings, disease prevention and recovery assistance services, and that allows people to consume controlled substances on the premises.

Members of the study group would include representatives from the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Public Safety, a member of the recovery treatment community, a medical professional and a person who has experienced substance use disorder.

The concept of safe consumption sites has been around for decades and always has been controversial, but it has gained support in recent years as the country continues to lose a record number of lives to drug overdoses. West Coast communities have tried them, and New York City now has two centers as well. Previous attempts to allow them or create them in Maine have failed.

The Maine bill would only authorize communities to allow such sites, which would be staffed by medical personnel. Users would receive immunity from arrest or prosecution for possessing or using drugs there. It has won the support of several advocates, including the Maine Recovery Advocacy Project.

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