Safe Injection Sites Are Moving Forward—DOJ Should Get Out of the Way
Safe injection sites are a proven method for reducing overdose deaths, but the Department of Justice has been using a 1986 law that President Joe Biden championed in the Senate to prevent their operation. DOJ should step aside.
The Biden administration has the power to reduce drug overdoses:
- The Department of Justice can determine that more harm than good would come from enforcing a certain law, and in response, may decline to sue or prosecute people under that law. For example, Obama’s DOJ announced it would not challenge state laws legalizing marijuana, despite the fact that marijuana remains illegal at the federal level.
- The Department of Justice should not interfere with the establishment of safe injection sites, which work to reduce overdose deaths, increase drug treatment, and stop the spread of infection and viruses. The attorney general should order a halt to enforcement actions against safe injection sites and order the DOJ to drop any pending lawsuits, as the Philadelphia Inquirer Editorial Board recommended.
- The Biden administration must act now. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled that a planned safe injection site in Philadelphia violates federal law. The decision is likely to freeze similar efforts across the country unless DOJ publicly announces no further challenges will be brought.
Safe injection sites prevent overdoses:
- Safe injection sites reduce overdose deaths, related ambulance calls, and HIV infections by providing a medically safe place for substance use. The sites do not give people drugs or permit drugs to be sold, but allow people to test their drugs to make sure they are not contaminated. Philadelphia’s site also planned to “care for wounds, offer drug treatment and counseling, refer people to social services, distribute overdose-reversal kits, and exchange used syringes for clean ones.”
- Public health and community safety advocates have long pushed for safe injection sites, but law enforcement and politicians have consistently gotten in the way. Opponents often push the false narrative that these sites will increase drug consumption and condone the use of illegal substances, but no studies or data support those claims.
- Momentum is increasing around the establishment of safe injection sites. Philadelphia’s Safehouse site would have been the first in the U.S., but efforts are also underway in Massachusetts, California, Colorado and Seattle.
- “All the public health data shows that supervised injection sites actually reduce drug use. They’re not only healthier for drug users, they’re better for everybody’s public health,” explained Massachusetts Congressman Seth Moulton to Boston 25 News in a recent interview.
- Joe Biden’s “Crack House” Crusade. Nearly 20 years ago, Biden urged prosecutors to wield the “crack house” statute against rave promoters. Now it’s being used to stamp out public health responses to the opioid crisis.
- Safe Injection Sites Are On the Way. But Will Prosecutions Follow? As the federal government vows to pursue “swift and aggressive action” against the sites, experts weigh in on what’s likely to happen next.
- Safe Injection Sites Save Lives, But Most U.S. Politicians Are Still Running Scared. Tens of thousands of people are dying every year. The President recently declared it a national emergency. Yet most politicians in the U.S. are still shying away from an empirically proven way to save lives claimed by the ever-growing opioid epidemic: supervised injection facilities.