President Biden’s Health and Human Services department (HHS) is finalizing funding to dole out crack pipes to drug addicts as part of its ‘Harm Reduction Plan.’
The $30 million grant program, which accepted applications until Monday and will begin doling out money in May, intends to provide funds to nonprofits and local governments to make drug use safer, to advance ‘racial equity.’
Included in the grant is money to purchase ‘safe smoking kits/supplies.’ A spokesperson for HHS told the Washington Free Beacon that included in these kits could be pipes for users to smoke substances like crack cocaine and crystal methamphetamine, or ‘any illicit substance.’
HHS said that the kits will serve to limit the risk of infection – typically users smoke out of glass pipes which can lead to cuts and sores that become infected with diseases like Hepatitis-C.
Handing out pipes is also intended to prompt users to smoke rather than inject themselves with some substances, like meth, as injection is far riskier.
Applicants for the program get priority if they serve ‘underserved communities,’ such as African Americans or Native Americans, or LGBTQ people.
The crack-cocaine epidemic starting in the 1980s disproportionately ravaged the black community.
Other harm reduction supplies that could be purchased with the grant money include testing equipment for sexually transmitted diseases, overdose reversal medication, medication lock boxes, syringes and substance test kits.
The grant program lasts three years and includes 25 awards of up to $400,000.
It is against the law to sell or distribute drug paraphernalia – including such pipes – unless authorized by state, local or federal law.
There were an estimated 100,306 drug overdose deaths in the 12-month period ending in April 2021, according to the CDC, a 28.5% increase from just the year prior. Three-quarters of those deaths involved opioids, many of them being synthetic opioids, such as methamphetamine or fentanyl.
Cities like San Francisco and Seattle have experimented with their own crack pipe kit distribution programs. Others have backed away from such plans. Louisville, Ky. allowed convenience stores to sell drug kits, before later banning them from doing so.
Meanwhile, the Justice Department (DOJ) signaled Monday it may allow ‘safe injection sites’ to open up across the U.S. Such sites would be safe havens where drug users could use heroin and other narcotics freely without risking arrest in an environment monitored by health professionals.
The DOJ told the Associated Press it was ‘evaluating’ such facilities and talking to regulators about the ‘appropriate guardrails.’ The DOJ under the Trump administration had prosecutors who fought aggressively against a plan to open safe consumption sites in Philadelphia.
‘Although we cannot comment on pending litigation, the Department is evaluating supervised consumption sites, including discussions with state and local regulators about appropriate guardrails for such sites, as part of an overall approach to harm reduction and public safety,’ the agency said in a statement Friday to the AP.
A divided appeals court last year ruled that safe injection sites would violate a 1980s-era drug law aimed at ‘crackhouses.’ The Supreme Court in October declined to take up the case.
About six weeks later, the first officially authorized safe injection sites opened in New York City. The two facilities — which the city calls ‘overdose prevention centers’ — provide a monitored place for drug users to partake, with staffers and supplies on hand to reverse overdoses.
The New York City sites so far have intervened in more than 110 overdoses among more than 500 users, many of whom have made multiple visits, according to OnPoint NYC, the organization running them.
However, critics say they are only encouraging drug use and burdening the surrounding communities.
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Is this a cruel joke? Drug overdose deaths are at their highest recorded levels. The Biden administration should focus on stopping traffickers instead of creating more demand for their product,’ Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., wrote on Twitter of the Justice Department’s consideration of the facilities.
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