In South Philadelphia residents are outraged. A nonprofit called Safehouse took a community by surprise. It did so by announcing the opening of a supervised “shooting gallery.” The non-profit is opening a drug-injection site in their neighborhood this week.
This is the government’s latest greatest attempt to “help” you.
A mother of two children, 6- and 10-years-old respectively, has to walk past the injection site every day. She called former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, chairman of Safehouse, and vice president Ronda Goldfein, “sneaks.”
Local council members expressed shock and outrage, either real or feigned. How could the facility be placed in their neighborhoods? Councilman Kenyatta Johnson said the facility flew under the City Council’s radar.
The area already was zoned for a medical facility. Councilman Johnson said the location was unacceptable. It shares a space with two daycare centers, a senior center and is less than 500 feet from a school.
The site will be a place where drug users inject themselves with their drug of choice. That means state-sponsored use of illegal drugs. Sure it would be under the supervision of a doctor or a nurse. Yes the healthcare providers can, if necessary, administer an overdose antidote. But do we really want that?
This is the first of many planned
Safehouse says its facility also would provide recovery counseling, education, and referrals to social services. This would be the first such injection site in the United States. Reporters from ABC Action News 6 toured similar facilities in Canada. They found the sites clean on the inside.
The reporters also found the sites attract significant drug use and sales. Such occurrences were found outside both during and after operating hours. They saw assaults and other crimes outside the facilities.
South Philadelphia’s injection site became possible with a ruling from U.S. District Judge Gerald McHugh. He gave Safehouse permission Feb. 25 to open. The federal government had tried to stop the injection site. They had been suing under a provision of the Controlled Substances Act. The Act is commonly called the “crack house statute.”
This statute makes it unlawful 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.” It makes it unlawful to “manage or control” any such place. It is unlawful to intentionally make a place available for others for the purpose of using illegal drugs. The plain language of that statute should have given the federal government the victory in court. Safehouse acknowledges it is providing a place for drug users to use drugs.
The judge doesn’t like the law and makes policy
Somehow Judge McHugh didn’t see it that way. He explains: “Safehouse knows and intends that some drug use will occur on its property… it does not necessarily follow that the organization will knowingly and intentionally make the place available… for the purpose of unlawful drug activity.” That statement fails the smile test. It is irresponsible and should make the judge impeachable based on incompetence.
The clear wording of the statute leaves no room for judicial activism. This is a clear and unmistakable case of legislating from the bench. Judicial activism is a violation of the separation of powers. Judge McHugh’s ruling is unconstitutional.
Perhaps sensing his explanation made no sense, McHugh tried to clarify. He has gone on to explain Safehouse intends people to use drugs at its injection site. However, the real purpose is “reducing the harm of drug use…” You believe that don’t you? He also said, the purpose is “… administering medical care, encouraging drug treatment…” Well, no. Actually it does no such thing. Having a place to go for people to break the law is neither treatment nor care.
Finally, the judge opines Safehouse is “… connecting people with social services.” Now that may be true. All it seems possible to say in response is: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
The battle is joined
The federal government is appealing Judge McHugh’s decision. While they do so, supporters of supervised drug injection sites are trying to open similar facilities elsewhere. They also intend to open in California, Washington, Colorado, Vermont, New York, and Maryland. And more locations are under consideration in other states. San Francisco and New York City have plans to open injection sites within the year.
Injection sites may go unnoticed in cities in some locations. Where needles, drug sales, and drug use are rampant and on full display on the streets who will notice? But in cities where parents don’t regularly have to walk their children past needles and past drug users to go to the store or school, they are another threat.
Where families don’t walk through human feces to get to church or the library, these injection sites will be a shock. They will be unwelcome. They will not raise property values in the neighborhood. Parents and city council members should remain vigilant so they too aren’t ambushed. What do you think? Does your neighborhood need a government-approved places to shoot drugs?