The Biden Admin Says It Never Planned To Fund Crack Pipes. House Democrats Are Set To Ban Funding Anyway.

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June 22, 2022

The Democrat-controlled House is set to pass a bill Wednesday that bans the Biden administration from funding crack pipe distribution through mental health and substance abuse programs.

The Democrat-sponsored bill, which reauthorizes several mental health programs that were set to expire this year, includes a measure that ensures the federal funds are not used to "purchase, procure, or distribute pipes or cylindrical objects intended to be used to smoke or inhale illegal scheduled substances." This language appears to cover crack pipes and meth pipes—drug paraphernalia the Biden administration was poised to fund through its $30 million harm reduction program, the Washington Free Beacon reported earlier this year.

The bill, which passed unanimously out of committee, specifically bars the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration—the same agency that oversees the White House's controversial harm reduction program—from using funds allocated for substance abuse and mental health programs to fund crack pipe distribution. It is scheduled to get a vote on the House floor on Wednesday afternoon.

It is unclear why Democrats believe it is necessary to ban funding for the drug paraphernalia, given President Joe Biden's denial that his administration ever had plans to fund crack pipe distribution. The White House said the agency would not fund "smoking kits" that contain crack pipes, so the measure may suggest the president's congressional allies doubt the administration's claims. Following the Free Beacon report, Republicans introduced several bills to ensure federal funds do not go toward crack pipes but were unable to advance legislation.

The New York Times reported that the "uproar" over crack pipes "derailed" the Biden administration's drug policy. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration later listed a notice at the top of its harm reduction grant webpage that states, "No federal funding is used directly or through subsequent reimbursement of grantees to purchase pipes in safer smoking kits."

Harm reduction organizations across the country aim to make drug use safer for abusers, rather than rehabilitating those abusers. Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R., N.D.), a member of the committee that passed the bill, said the provision distances Congress from the Biden administration's radical approach to drug policy.

"Stopping the Biden administration from using taxpayer dollars to buy crack pipes is a win for those of us working on commonsense criminal justice reform," Armstrong told the Free Beacon. "Handing them out did nothing to make our communities safer or help people struggling with addiction and mental health."

Syringe exchange programs are supported by a majority of state governments, but smoking kits are a less common approach to harm reduction. Crack pipe distribution efforts are prominent in deep-blue cities such as San Francisco, Seattle, New York, Boston, and Baltimore.

Rep. Frank Pallone (D., N.J.), who as the head of the House Energy and Commerce Committee sponsored the bill, did not respond to a request for comment.

The Restoring Hope for Mental Health and Well-Being Act of 2022 will also reauthorize programs for mental disorder screenings, suicide prevention, and mental health awareness for children.