Crackhouse Or Safehouse? U.S. Officials Try To Block Philly’s Supervised Injection Site

Philadelphia could become the first U.S. city to offer opioid users a place to inject drugs under medical supervision. But lawyers for the Trump administration are trying to block the effort, citing a 1980s-era law known as “the crackhouse statute.”

Advocates for safe injection sites rallied in front of the James A Byrne Federal Courthouse in Center City to show their support for evidence-based harm reduction policies, an end to the dehumanization of people suffering from addiction and the opening of Safehouse a safe injection site in Philadelphia, PA on September 5, 2019. (Photo by Cory Clark/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Justice Department lawyers argued in federal court Thursday against the nonprofit, Safehouse, which wants to open the site.

U.S. Attorney William McSwain, in a rare move, argued the case himself. He said Safehouse’s intended activities would clearly violate a portion of the federal Controlled Substances Act that makes it illegal to manage any site for the purpose of unlawfully using a controlled substance. The statute was added to the broader legislation in the mid-1980s at the height of the crack cocaine epidemic in American cities.

Safehouse argued the law does not apply because the nonprofit’s main purpose is saving lives, not providing illegal drugs. Its board members said that the so-called crackhouse statute was not designed to be applied in the face of a public health emergency.

“Do you think that Congress would want to send volunteer nurses and doctors to prison?” Ed Rendell, the former Philadelphia mayor and Pennsylvania governor who serves on Safehouse’s board, asked after the hearing. “Do you think that’s a legitimate result of this statute? Of course not, no one could have ever contemplated that, ever!”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *