DENVER — Denver Mayor Michael Hancock significantly rolled back his support for supervised drug injection sites, in a Wednesday interview on Next with Kyle Clark.
Hancock previously said he “fully support(s)” the supervised injection site plan passed by Denver City Council in November.
In an interview prior to his re-election campaign announcement on Wednesday evening, Hancock said he does not necessarily support giving drug users a place in Denver to legally inject under medical supervision.
Denver would be the first American city with such a facility.
“We’re going to be hard-pressed to place them anywhere,” Hancock said. “It’s going to be a very uphill battle for anyone who tries to open up this type of center.”
Hancock’s initial pledge in November to support and sign the supervised injection site legislation acknowledged upcoming legal hurdles.
The state legislature, which is controlled by Hancock’s fellow Democrats, must vote to allow Denver to get around a nuisance law.
Federal law enforcement has also sounded a warning about supervised injection sites but it is not clear if and when the feds would intervene.
Denver’s plan is modeled after supervised injection sites in Vancouver, Canada.
Overdose deaths in Vancouver have risen amid a spike in the usage of fentanyl, a powerful and highly addictive painkiller. Supervised injection sites, as planned in Denver, would allow drug users to inject heroin, fentanyl-laced heroin, or straight fentanyl. Testing of the drugs to be injected would be voluntary.
On Next, Hancock raised doubts about any city, including Vancouver, has found a solution to the opioid crisis.
“We have not found a best practice anywhere in the country or any city around the world that’s been successful with dealing with this issue,” Hancock said.
Denver voters may weigh in on another drug decriminalization issue this year. Advocates have submitted petition signatures for a ballot issue to make Denver the first American city to legalize psychedelic mushrooms. Hancock told Next he opposes decriminalizing mushrooms.
Asked whether legal marijuana, supervised heroin injection sites, and legalized mushrooms would give Denver a reputation as America’s drug paradise, Hancock was adamant.
“Absolutely, we don’t want that reputation,” Hancock said.
Hancock said he spoke to the mayor of Amsterdam when Denver was legalizing recreation marijuana and the mayor of the Dutch capital had warned him about allowing Denver to get a similar reputation as a drug haven.
“He says, do whatever you can, you fight like hell. Make sure you don’t get the reputation as the dope city or dope capital of the nation, because you never get that back,” Hancock said.
“It’s not going to happen,” Hancock said. “We have worked very hard not to get that reputation.”
Hancock is kicking off his formal re-election campaign seeking a third term in office. He faces a more difficult path to remaining in office than four years ago, when he saw nominal opposition.
This year, he faces challengers including community advocate Lisa Calderon, former state Senator Penfield State, and development consultant Jamie Giellis.