THE SNUGBUS EXPRESS

U.S. Judge Rules Safe Injection Sites Do Not Violate Federal Law

I wonder who put this judge in office?

A non-profit organization scored a significant legal victory, paving the way for the group to open a safe injection site in Philadelphia. Safehouse has been trying to open a place where drug addicts can go to safely use illegal drugs while under the supervision of medical professionals who can intervene in case of an overdose. The organization has been negotiating with city officials to open a site in the Kensington neighborhood, which is one of the areas hardest hit by the opioid epidemic.

They hit a snag when U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain filed a motion to halt their plans, arguing that safe injection sites are illegal under a federal law passed in 1986 that made it against the law to "knowingly open, lease, rent, use, or maintain any place ... for the purpose of unlawfully manufacturing, storing, distributing, or using a controlled substance."

U.S. District Judge Gerald A. McHugh rejected McSwain's motion ruling that the 1986 law, which was later amended in 2003, was not intended to make safe injection sites illegal.

"It's clear that Congress could not have intended to ban overdose prevention sites (OPS) when it passed or amended the law," he wrote. "Using the sites as a possible harm reduction strategy had not yet entered the public discussion, as the court said. The purpose of overdose prevention sites is to reduce drug use and increase access to treatment—that's obviously not what Congress intended to prohibit. We look forward to working with Safehouse to ensure that these sites operate in a safe and effective manner for those in need of help and for the benefit of the surrounding communities."

The Department of Justice plans to appeal the decision.

"The Department of Justice remains committed to preventing illegal drug injection sites from opening," said McSwain. "Today's opinion is merely the first step in a much longer legal process that will play out. This case is obviously far from over."

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