A Philadelphia non-profit is looking to create the nation’s first “supervised drug injection” site for drug addicts to inject themselves with some of the world’s most dangerous drugs under medical supervision, in an effort to combat the growing death rate from opioid overdoses. The U.S. Attorney in Philadelphia, William McSwain, appointed by President Trump, filed a lawsuit on Wednesday to stop the site from opening.
The lawsuit stems from 21 USC § 856, a 1986 federal law known as the “crack house statute.” This law makes it illegal 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.”
The law is pretty clear. But perhaps the law needs to be changed. If there is any Republican administration that should be open to changing this law, it should be the Trump administration. Having already passed bipartisan criminal reform legislation and having commuted the sentence of a nonviolent drug offender, President Trump should continue fixing the broken criminal justice system.
It might be too soon to create federal injection sites, but it is at least worth a try locally. Cities like Philadelphia, San Francisco Seattle, New York and Denver are looking to pass legislation to create local government-funded injection sites. None of them have successfully passed such a measure as of yet. But maybe the Trump administration should wait to see how these plans come about. President Trump has nothing to lose: either the plans go horribly wrong and Democrats take the blame, or the plans are successful and the president can make his mark on criminal justice reform by making them more widespread.
It has long been the conservative position to limit “big government.” Here is an opportunity to live by that motto: let local government combat their own problems their own way. President Trump can and should praise or criticize the plans as he sees fit, but ultimately, he should remain on the sidelines.