Harm Reduction: Anti-Safe Injection Site Amendment Killed in Conference Committee

An amendment to the Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill that would have barred the dispersal of federal funds from those departments to any city that opened a safe injection site for drug users was killed in conference committee this week. The measure was deleted "without prejudice," meaning committee members did not have to go on record as opposed to the amendment.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/demint.jpg
drug war bad guy Jim DeMint
Officially, it was deleted because it was not in the House version of the bill. But drug reform activists say it was because committee Democrats got lots of calls from constituents urging them to oppose it.

"This is a victory for harm reduction and the drug policy reform movement," said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, which led the effort to kill the amendment. "Congress came close to adopting something that would have the same sort of impact as the federal ban on funding needle exchanges. It's good to see that in this case, at least, Congress didn't let politics trump science."

The amendment was sponsored by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) in reaction to talk in San Francisco about opening a safe injection site there. Although the sites have been proven to reduce needle-sharing and the spread of infectious blood-borne diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis C and are open in eight European countries, Australia, and Canada, no such sites are operating in the US.

Two weeks ago, DeMint was crowing about his victory. "The Senate sent a clear message to cities that it's beyond ridiculous to ask Americans to pay for drug addicts to inject themselves with heroin and cocaine," he said. "The officials in San Francisco that gave credibility to this absurd idea should be embarrassed. This would undermine federal law and promote illegal behavior. These safe havens for drug users would only encourage more addiction and support the illegal drug market."

DeMint is eating those words now.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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