By: Joseph Mallek
U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was interviewed on the local Philadelphia radio station, WHYY, where he stated that the Department of Justice would be taking, “swift and aggressive action” against cities which open Safe Injection Facilities. Major cities across the United States are planning to open Safe Injection Facilities to combat overdose deaths by providing centers where users are monitored by staffers who are equipped with the opioid antidote naloxone and oxygen. With overdose-related deaths increasing to epidemic levels in the past several years, cities are looking for a new approach to save lives. Safe Injection Facilities are one option, modeled after similar facilities in Europe and Canada, to provide a quicker response in the event of an overdose. City health officials in Philadelphia stated that in countries with these kinds of facilities, overdose deaths have dropped.
Rosenstein stated in an interview on WHYY and in a subsequent opinion column he wrote in the New York Times, that the Safe Injection Facilities are a violation of federal law. Under federal law, it is illegal to maintain a location for the purposes of facilitating illegal drug use, even though the facility staffers do not provide users with illegal drugs or assist in the use of illegal drugs, by either injection or smoking. Rosenstein argued in his opinion column that in addition to these facilities being illegal under federal law, they have a detrimental impact on the communities they sit through the flood of drug users to an area, bringing with them the peripheral criminal activity associated with illegal drug use. Officials in cities planning to open Safe Injection Facilities – in San Francisco, Philadelphia, New York City, Seattle and elsewhere – have pushed back against the statements of Rosenstein and the Department of Justice, creating the possibility of another standoff between cities federal authorities.
Lenny Bernstein & Katie Zezima, Cities defiant after Justice Department’s threat on ‘supervised injection sites’, The Washington Post (Sept. 4, 2018), https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/cities-defiant-after-justice-departments-threat-on-supervised-injection-sites/2018/09/04/fcf798d6-b056-11e8-a20b-5f4f84429666_story.html?utm_term=.ffcccbe2eefc.
Bobby Allyn, DOJ’s Rosenstein: If Philly opens injection site, U.S. crackdown will be swift, WHYY (Aug. 29, 2018), https://whyy.org/segments/dojs-rosenstein-if-philly-opens-injection-site-u-s-crackdown-will-be-swift/.
Rod J. Rosenstein, Fight Drug Abuse, Don’t Subsidize It, The New York Times (Aug. 27, 2018), https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/27/opinion/opioids-heroin-injection-sites.html.