California Governor Vetoes Bill to Pay People to Stay Sober

A bill introduced by a California Senator intended to start a drug treatment program that rewards people for testing negative to drugs, confirming their sobriety. The California governor has rejected this bill by veto power. 

While the governor is warming up to the idea presented in the bill, he insists on pilot testing before signing it into law. The state has committed to this by including funds for a pilot program in its budget. The pilot program is slated to commence in January 2022 and end in March 2024. 

The California governor explained the reason for his decision in his veto message. He mentioned that the results and lessons from the pilot program should be appraised before it gets added to the California Medicaid health care program. The governor believes that the bill is ahead of its time but will be a suitable option in the future.

Participants of the program, called contingency management,  will do drug tests several times, every week for a particular period. Participants that test negative are rewarded with about $2. At the end of the program, participants that stay clean all through can claim gift card rewards worth hundreds of dollars. 

This type of drug treatment program is not new as the federal government through the Department of Veterans Affairs has administered it on veterans since 2011. Studies conducted on this program show it helps curb the addiction of drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine, which have hardly any effective pharmaceutical treatment. 

There is a sharp rise in substance use, like cocaine and methamphetamine, in the state, over the past decade. The use of such substances has jumped as much as 400% during this period, and data gathered from the lockdown period in 2020 shows that death from drug overdose also increased by 45%. 

Senator Wiener, who sponsored the bill, voiced his disappointment at the governor’s veto decision. He believes that the decision will contribute negatively to the fight against the epidemic, resulting in more deaths from the indiscriminate use of the substances. 

The senator argued that the bill should be a law immediately, believing the issue it addresses is not limited to the future but also to the present. The pilot testing seems unnecessary to him as there is reliable data from earlier research to prove that contingency management is effective in helping users stay sober. 

The bill was well-received in the Legislature as no other senator opposed it. While the governor’s veto decision can be superseded by a majority vote by the lawmakers, this is doubtful because such has not occurred in California since 1979.