In response to accusations that Biden administration will be funding the distribution of crack pipes to addicts, Sen. Joe Manchin teamed up with Republicans to introduce a bill that would ban the distribution of drug paraphernalia. Meanwhile, two Republicans are driven to introduce the ‘HUNTER Act’, which would ban the distribution of crack pipes to addicts.
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While the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) denies that crack pipes are to be included in the ‘safe smoking kits’ they will fund, Reps. Lauren Boebert of Colorado and Dan Bishop of North Carolina told Fox News that the Biden administration got caught ‘red-handed.’
Health and Human Services is now considering applications from community groups to distribute $30 million as part of its Harm Reduction Grant program. In collaboration with the grant, materials will be provided to addicts to prevent the spread of disease.
President Biden’s son Hunter Biden, whose struggles with addiction inspired the Republicans’ bill this week, has been dubbed the HUNTER Act after his father’s bill.
‘I like the HUNTER Act,’ Boebert said, ‘because it was a better acronym than Stop Paying to Subsidize Biden’s Son’s Drug Addiction act. That didn’t really flow. I think tax dollars have been on the hook for Hunter’s addictions long enough.’
In his bill, Bishop says he intends to target federal funding of safe injection sites, needle trade-ins, and safe smoking kits. According to him, this kind of program tries to ‘remove all stigma’ from drug use, when stigma is actually not a bad thing.
Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia introduced a bill with Sen. Marco Rubio to prohibit federal funding for the purchase of drugs-related paraphernalia such as pipes and needles. It is called the PIPES Act, which stands for Preventing Illicit Paraphernalia for Exchange Systems.
Rubio on Thursday introduced the CRACK Act, a separate but similar bill, along with 16 Republican co-sponsors, even after the Biden administration’s denial that it would fund pipes.
‘I am glad the Biden administration acknowledges sending crack pipes to our nation’s addicts is a bad idea,’ Rubio said in a statement. ‘It is pure insanity to think the federal government would fund crack pipe distribution. This legislation will make certain the program can never pay for crack pipes, and given the Biden administration’s position I look forward to their vigorous support.’
Rubio’s bill would amend the American Rescue Plan to prohibit the use of federal funds to ‘supply, or distribute pipes, cylindrical objects, or other paraphernalia that can be used to smoke, inhale, or ingest narcotics.’
While Republicans were almost universally appalled at the report on crack pipe distribution, many have already embraced needle exchange programs. Thirty-eight states currently allow programs to give out clean needles to addicts.
Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation in 2019 allowing syringe exchange programs, as did Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey in 2021. North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum signed legislation expanding his state’s exchange program, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb’s administration was critical when one Indiana county planned to close its porgram.
‘The HUNTER Act is a means of encapsulating how ridiculous public policy can become when it’s in the hands of the woke,’ Bishop said.
‘I like the HUNTER Act,’ Boebert said in an interview, ‘because it was a better acronym than Stop Paying to Subsidize Biden’s Son’s Drug Addiction act. That didn’t really flow. I think tax dollars have been on the hook for Hunter’s addictions long enough.’
While Republicans expressed dismay about a reported plan to include crack pipes in government-funded safe smoking kits, a liberal drug policy group criticized Health and Human Services (HHS) for leaving out the pipes.
The Drug Policy Alliance said the decision to ‘remove pipes from safe smoking equipment is deeply disappointing.’
‘This is a missed opportunity to be preventative of more deaths due to overdose,’ the group wrote on Twitter. ‘Giving clean drug-using equipment such as a pipe & syringe reduces transmission of disease including Hep. C & HIV.’
‘Harm reduction works to meet people where they are at, and keep people free of diseases and alive so they have a chance of recovery and healing,’ the group added.
The program, which accepted applications from local nonprofits until this week, will fund ‘safe smoking kits/supplies,’ which White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday will include ‘alcohol swabs, lip balm, other materials to promote hygiene and reduce the transmission of diseases like HIV and hepatitis.’
HHS could not be reached for comment on a comprehensive list of allowable items, but such kits also typically include a rubber mouthpiece to prevent cuts and burns, brass screens to filter contaminants and disinfectant wipes, according to Harm Reduction International.
Jamie Favaro, executive director of NEXT Distro, one of the groups that applied for the grants, told the Washington Post that such kits typically do not include glass pipes because it is far more expensive than just offering a mouthpiece, which can be affixed to any pipe to prevent spreading infection.
Clean pipes are intended to curb the injecting drugs with needles, which is far riskier. But the HHS grant will offer clean needles, too.
In pushing for the pipes to be included, the Drug Policy Alliance said: ‘The US government has prioritized a criminalization approach for 50+ years & its failing. Overdose rates are at record highs.’
Also funded under the grant are harm reduction vending machines, including stock for the machines, medication to reverse a drug overdose, medication lock boxes, infectious disease testing kits, safe sex kits, medication and needle disposal kits, vaccination services and wound care supplies.
The $30 million Harm Reduction Program grant is funded through the 2021 American Rescue Plan, and therefore is ‘not subject to the same syringe funding restrictions as other federal grants,’ HHS says.
The grant program lasts three years and includes 25 awards of up to $400,000.
It is against the law to sell or distribute drug paraphernalia – including such pipes – unless authorized by state, local or federal law.
On Monday the Washington Free Beacon reported that an HHS spokesperson told them that included in these kits these kits could be pipes for users to smoke substances like crack cocaine and crystal methamphetamine, or ‘any illicit substance.’
HHS on Wednesday put out a statement contradicting its previously reported remarks. ‘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.’
Psaki said that the pipes were never expected to be included in the kits. ‘They were never a part of the kit,’ said Psaki. ‘It was inaccurate reporting.’
‘I would note that what we’re really talking about here is steps that we’re taking as a federal government to address the opioid epidemic,’ Psaki added.
The press secretary denied that HHS had changed its policy on the crack pipes after the story first came out. ‘We don’t support federal funding, indirect or direct, for pipes.’
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In Hunter Biden’s 2021 memoir ‘Beautiful Things,’ he admitted to buying crack on the streets of Washington, D.C. and having guns pointed in his face while he went searching for drugs.
Hunter reveals that at one point, he let a homeless crack addict who he bought drugs from move in with him.
‘The relationship was symbiotic,’ he writes. ‘It was two crack addicts who couldn’t find their way out of a paper bag. A one-act crack farce.’
‘I spent more times on my hands and knees picking through rugs smoking anything that even remotely resembled crack cocaine. I probably smoked more parmesan cheese than anyone that you know,’ the president’s son said with a laugh, as he sat down with CBS Sunday Morning in April.