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Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Supreme Court urged to review ban on drug injection sites, with Philly case as focus

The amicus brief filed Friday, signed by dozens of current and former prosecutors and law enforcement officials across the country, said Congress never intended the crackhouse statute to encompass harm reduction efforts offered by medical personnel. Supporters in Rhode Island, where state law now allows it, and in California, New Mexico and several other states, hope to open pilot sites themselves.

“People are in a bit of a waiting and watching game, to see whether the (Biden) Administration is going to criminalize it,” said Miriam Krinsky, executive director of Fair and Just Prosecution, the organization that coordinated the brief. “The waiting game has cost lives.”

The Justice Department has so far stayed neutral in the case, waiving its right to weigh in. McSwain’s successor, Acting U.S. Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams, likewise declined to comment Friday.

Under the Safehouse plan, people could bring drugs to the clinic-like setting, use them in a partitioned bay and get medical help if they overdose. They would also have access to counseling, treatment and other health services.

“Its motives are admirable. But Congress has made it a crime to open a property to others to use drugs,” U.S. Circuit Judge Stephanos Bibas wrote for the U.S. Circuit panel, overturning a district judge who found the plan legal given its goal of reducing drug use — not promoting it — through counseling and other services.

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