Supervised injection sites may not be legal, but they’re not not legal, according to a new ruling from a federal judge. The decision could have important consequences, both for the advocates in Philadelphia who are directly affected, and for other people with similar progressive approaches to the opioid crisis.
The issues has come under legal scrutiny as a non-profit health group in Philadelphia has tried to establish an initiative called Safehouse, a clean clinic-like setting where drug users could inject themselves under the supervision of medical professionals.
While the judge’s endorsement is not exactly a ringing legal endorsement of the plan, it gives some encouragement that Safehouse organizers might not be jailed for trying to prevent drug overdoses in their area.
Their plan had got a wrench thrown into it when U.S. Attorney William McSwain, a Trump appointee, sued to block the Safehouse, saying it was misguided and violated drug laws introduced in the 1980’s.
However, on Wednesday U.S. District Judge Gerald A. McHugh ruled that supervised injection sites like Safehouse did not violate those laws.
“Safe injection sites were not considered by Congress and could not have been, because their use as a possible harm reduction strategy among opioid users had not yet entered public discourse,” McHugh said in his ruling, as reported by the Associated Press.
Some in the Justice Department were a little bummed out by the decision. Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen announced that the DOJ would “take all available steps to pursue further judicial review” and warned that anyone opening safe injection sites similar to the Safehouse will meet “immediate action by the department.”
The Safehouse has met support from Philadelphia’s Mayor Jim Kenney and District Attorney Larry Krasner, who believe it would reduce the city’s drug-related deaths and help addicts find treatment.
Photo via Flickr user Zaldylmg