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Every five minutes in the United States, someone dies from a drug overdose. This public health crisis, referred to as the opioid epidemic, caused the federal government and many states and localities to issue public health emergency declarations. Despite billions of dollars in funding and response at every level of government, overdoses continue to increase.

The complexity of addiction prevention and treatment, socioeconomic inequalities, and the stigmatization of drug use make the opioid crisis difficult to solve. The severity of the epidemic led many jurisdictions to adopt once-controversial harm reduction approaches aimed at reducing the stigma and negative impacts of drug use, including supervised consumption sites (SCS). SCSs are proven to be cost-effective, lifesaving, and crime-reducing, but often face intense political and public opposition due to misperceptions that they encourage drug use and cause crime in surrounding communities. Although many harm reduction approaches have gained acceptance, SCSs remain controversial and legally precarious.

This Note discusses the legal landscape around SCSs and the viability of local implementation of SCSs under current Georgia law. Although Georgia has shown openness to harm reduction at the state level in recent years, political and public opposition may present a significant challenge to state authorization of SCSs. However, Georgia’s home rule and public health authority law provides counties and municipalities with significant autonomy which may be used to authorize SCSs at the local level. Ultimately, SCSs likely face a rocky path forward in Georgia. However, localities in other states with more formidable legal barriers than Georgia’s have successfully moved forward with SCSs through a combination of local authorization and consensus building. It is the prerogative and duty of Georgia localities to protect the public health of their constituents, and SCS advocates should continue to pave the way by fighting stigma and educating partners.