U.S. Supreme Court Denies Review of Alameda County Drug Takeback Case

Since the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously upheld the County of Alameda’s controversial first-in-the-nation drug takeback law last September, the Bay Area has witnessed other counties contemplating their own local ordinances. With last month’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to deny review of the case (Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, et al., Petitioners v. County of Alameda, California, et al.), the floodgates have been opened further with emboldened proponents broadening their fight, and moving to counties outside the Bay Area.

In the last few months, the counties of San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara have each passed their own version of the Alameda ordinance—quickly and unanimously. The county of Marin is working towards passage this summer. Sonoma, Mendocino, Contra Costa, and the rest of the Bay Area counties have had their own discussions. Outside the Bay Area, the Counties of Santa Barbara and Los Angeles are in initial stages on their own proposals.

Broadly, through regional coordination by proponents, a recurring pattern emerges in each respective county:

  • The leadership of the Department of Environment brings the issue to the Board of Supervisors
  • Nonprofit environmental activist groups show up in force
  • Local waste treatment, recycling, and garbage companies advocate for help in managing the drugs in their system
  • County sheriffs, chiefs of police and fire, and other law enforcement delineate their concerns for public safety
  • Youth and family advocates urge passage in order to block child and teenage access to leftover drugs
  • Aging and retired persons’ organizations speak out for the elderly’s concerns
  • County budget analysts note the ordinance will save the county money as it hands off this responsibility to the private sector
  • Elected officials claim that it will only cost pennies to the pharmaceutical industry

CLSA has been working steadfastly in each county to counter these claims with the facts about the environment and public safety. We are also addressing the costs these ordinances will have to the innovative research and development for disease and health management. However, in light of the Supreme Court’s denial of review, we expect more counties to move in this direction in the near future.