More than a dozen Republican senators introduced a measure Thursday that would ban a pandemic relief program from funding the distribution of crack pipes and other drug paraphernalia.
The Cutting off Rampant Access to Crack Kits (CRACK) Act, introduced by Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.), would amend the Democrats' American Rescue Plan, which allocates $30 million for a program that funds the distribution of crack "smoking kits." The amendment comes in response to a Washington Free Beacon report Monday that detailed how the Biden administration will fund smoking kits intended to limit the spread of disease among users of drugs such as crack cocaine and crystal methamphetamine. The money would fund local government programs such as ones already established in cities across the country. Programs in Annapolis, Md., New Haven, Conn., San Francisco, and Seattle, all included smoking pipes in kits.
"It is pure insanity to think the federal government would fund crack pipe distribution," Rubio said. "This legislation will make certain the program can never pay for crack pipes."
The Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the "harm reduction" grant program, defended funding smoking kits, saying "unsafe smoking practices can lead to open sores, burns and cuts on the lips, and can increase the risk of infection among people who smoke drugs."
HHS secretary Xavier Becerra announced Wednesday, however, that "no federal funding will be used directly or through subsequent reimbursement of grantees to put pipes in safe smoking kits." Aside from pipes, smoking kits often include mouthpieces, rubber bands, and alcohol wipes.
Supporters of harm reduction programs were blindsided by the administration's reversal. The Drug Policy Alliance, a nonprofit that supports harm reduction programs, criticized the Biden administration for "backtracking" on its plan to fund crack pipes.
"Backtracking on providing critical evidence-based resources that could greatly improve the health of people who consume drugs through smoking is a huge missed opportunity," the group said in a statement Wednesday.
The legislation is cosponsored by Sens. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.), John Boozman (R., Ark.), Joni Ernst (R., Iowa), Tim Scott (R., S.C.), Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa.), Bill Cassidy (R., La.), Jim Inhofe (R., Okla.), Shelley Moore Capito (R., W.Va.), Mike Braun (R., Ind.), Rick Scott (R., Fla.), Steve Daines (R., Mont.), Thom Tillis (R., N.C.), John Kennedy (R., La.), John Thune (R., S.D.), and John Barrasso (R, Wyo.).
"The Biden administration is in cleanup mode because they got caught funding crack pipe distribution," said Cotton. "There’s never anything safe about giving drug paraphernalia to addicts."