Crack pipes are distributed in safe-smoking kits up and down the East Coast, raising questions about the Biden administration’s assertion that its multimillion-dollar harm reduction grant program wouldn’t funnel taxpayer dollars to drug paraphernalia.
The findings are the result of Washington Free Beacon visits to five harm-reduction organizations and calls to over two dozen more. In fact, every organization we visited—facilities in Boston, New York City, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, and Richmond, Va.—included crack pipes in the kits.
The kits became the subject of national attention in the wake of a Free Beacon report in February indicating that a $30 million harm-reduction program was set to fund the distribution of free crack pipes in “safe-smoking kits.” Pressed on the matter in a Feb. 9 press briefing, White House press secretary Jen Psaki issued a full-throated denial.
“They were never a part of the kit, it was inaccurate reporting,” Psaki said of the pipes. “A safe smoking kit may contain alcohol swabs, lip balm, other materials to promote hygiene and reduce the transmission of diseases.”
While the contents of safe-smoking kits vary from one organization to another—and while those from some organizations may not contain crack pipes—all of the organizations we visited made crack pipes as well as paraphernalia for the use of heroin, cocaine, and crystal methamphetamine readily available without requiring or offering rehabilitation services, suggesting that pipes are included in many if not most of the kits distributed across the country. All of the centers we visited are run by health-focused nonprofits and government agencies—the types of groups eligible to receive funding, starting this month, from the Biden administration’s $30 million grant program.
None of the organizations responded to inquiries about whether they applied for government grants. It is not clear which organizations will receive those grants, nor has the administration said how it will ensure the kits will not contain crack pipes. The Department of Health and Human Services, which will oversee the Biden grant program, declined to provide a list of groups that have applied for funding, citing “confidentiality.” The Biden administration is set to announce grant recipients on May 15.
The Free Beacon‘s findings contradict claims from a raft of fact-checkers who, based on the White House’s ex-post-facto denial, deemed the Free Beacon‘s reporting false.
A USA Today headline asking, “What’s inside a safe smoking kit?” answered: “No, it’s not a crack pipe.” The outlet based its fact-check solely on the administration’s denial and does not appear to have done any additional research on safe smoking kits. The author, Michelle Shen, did not respond to a request for comment.
A survey of more than two dozen harm reduction organizations found that not all harm reduction organizations distribute safe smoking kits, but those that do almost always provide crack pipes. The few that don’t include crack pipes in their kits say they are willing to, but unable to.
At Washington, D.C.’s Family and Medical Counseling Service, Inc., for example, a member of the group’s needle exchange team told the Free Beacon that the organization would love to offer crack pipes as part of its safe smoking kit but hasn’t been able to purchase them.
“I would if I knew how,” said Tyrone Pinkney, who distributes clean needles from a recreational vehicle and said he did not know where to buy crack pipes to include in the kits.
Read the rest here: Free Beacon