Philadelphia Safe Injection Site Hits Another Legal Roadblock
The fight in Philadelphia to open the nation’s first facility for intravenous drug users to safely inject drugs faced another setback last week when a federal court declined to reconsider a ruling that put a halt to the site’s opening.
A “safe injection facility” (SIF) is an indoor location where people can use intravenous drugs under medical supervision and safe from arrest. Proponents of these facilities say they save lives by treating overdoses, offering guidance for people seeking addiction treatment, and providing drug users with a sterile and safe environment.
Several SIFs exist in other countries, but none operate openly in the United States. There have been pushes to allows SIFs in cities with high numbers of people who inject drugs in public, like San Francisco, Seattle, and Philadelphia.
Last year, a district court ruled in favor of Safehouse, the nonprofit attempting to open a SIF in Philadelphia. But this past January, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit issued a 2–1 decision against Safehouse. The court ruled that opening the facility would be in violation of a provision of the federal Controlled Substances Act known as the “crackhouse statute.” This provision makes it illegal to “knowingly open, lease, rent, use, or maintain any place, whether permanently or temporarily, for the purpose of manufacturing, distributing, or using any controlled substance.”
“Congress has made it a crime to open a property to others to use drugs,” the opinion said. “And that is what Safehouse will do.”
On March 24, the same court dismissed a motion for the case to be retried before a full panel of circuit court judges.
Ronda Goldfein, an attorney and the vice president of Safeho
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