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Rubio Introducing Legislation to Prohibit Funds from Going Towards Crack Pipes

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) will introduce legislation to stop the funding of crack pipes in the name of "equity." Since damning reports about such a program came out, the Biden administration has been forced to do damage control and is now disputing such reports, even after the Department of Health and Human Services appeared to initially confirm that "smoking kits/supplies" could provide pipes that could be used to smoke "any illicit substance," including crack, as Patrick Hauf for The Washington Free Beacon reported.


Sen. Rubio's legislation will amend Section 2706 of the American Rescue Plan Act to prohibit ant funds from purchasing, supplying, or distributing crack pipes or similar drug paraphernalia. 

In a video shared to Twitter, which drew ire from an HHS spokesperson and also resulted in a back-and-forth with Rep. Eric Swalwell, Rubio called the decision to send crack pipes "insanity" and lunacy."

"I am glad the Biden Administration acknowledges sending crack pipes to our nation’s addicts is a bad idea," Rubio said in a press release. "It is pure insanity to think the federal government would fund crack pipe distribution. I will introduce legislation in the coming days to make sure this program can never pay for crack pipes, and given the Biden Administration’s position I look forward to their vigorous support."


HHS on Wednesday released a statement from Secretary Xavier Becerra as well as the Office of National Drug Control Policy Director Dr. Rahul Gupta. 

"HHS and ONDCP are focused on using our resources smartly to reduce harm and save lives. Accordingly, no federal funding will be used directly or through subsequent reimbursement of grantees to put pipes in safe smoking kits. The goal of harm reduction is to save lives," the statement said. "The Administration is focused on a comprehensive strategy to stop the spread of drugs and curb addiction, including prioritizing the use of proven harm reduction strategies like providing naloxone, fentanyl test strips, and clean syringes, as well as taking decisive actions to go after violent criminals who are trafficking illicit drugs like fentanyl across our borders and into our communities. We will continue working to address the addiction and overdose epidemic and ensure that our resources are used in the smartest and most efficient manner."


While the statement clarifies that crack pipes will not be funded, it will be providing clean syringes still, which could thus potentially be used to inject illegal drugs.

C.A. Bridges, writing for The Palm Beach Post on Wednesday, referenced Rubio's video and addressed previous statements about the program. 

As he wrote:

Is the Biden administration giving out free crack pipes?

That was planned, in a limited way, under controlled situations, as a small part of a larger substance-abuse harm reduction grant overseen by the HHS to combat the dramatically increasing number of drug overdoses in the U.S. 

But that changed on Wednesday when HHS sent out a news release.


The 2022 Harm Reduction Program Grant, issued by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration under the HHS, will provide $29,250,000 over three years "to support community-based overdose prevention programs, syringe services programs, and other harm reduction services."

One of the components of the program is providing safer smoking kits, but that's just one small element in a subset of a list of 20 items the program calls for.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki addressed the reports during Wednesday's press conference, when a reporter pointed out that "the language was unclear" on whether "safe smoking kits" would be "funded by the administration."


"They were never a part of the kit; it was inaccurate reporting," Psaki claimed. "And we wanted to put out information to make that clear," a point she kept doubling down on as she re-emphasized the statement released by HHS.

"We put out this statement, though, because there was inaccurate information out there — or I should say, HHS put out the statement because there was inaccurate information out there, and we wanted to provide clarification on the allowable uses for the HHS Harm Reduction program.  It’s not a change in policy," she said. 

In response to being asked "what would you say to critics who are concerned that the Biden administration is somehow encouraging illegal drug use," Psaki lambasted those critics by in part saying "we don't have time for political games."

"The President is focused on saving lives through harm reduction programs.  That’s exactly what we’re talking about here.  They work in red states, and they work in blue states.  We know they save lives; they help connect people to treatment and recovery.  And they were endorsed this week by a bipartisan commission co-chaired by Senator Tom Cotton that examines steps we must take to address the devastating toll of overdoses," she also offered, going on to stress bipartisanship. 


Psaki would not speak further about whether DOJ is opposed to "efforts to open safe injection sites," as she said "it's under litigation," and then went on to claim "the White House is committed... to taking steps to address the opioid crisis."

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