Marco Rubio bill would bar HHS from funding crack pipe distribution
Image via Reuters.

But the White House said that's not what's happening.

Sen. Marco Rubio doesn’t want taxpayer dollars used by nonprofit agencies to buy crackpipes. While the White House said that never was going to happen, Florida’s senior Senator filed legislation that would make sure.

Rubio on Wednesday posted a video slamming the administration after reports on the Health and Human Services (HHS) Department plans for its $30-million Harm Reduction Program. Fox News and others said grants would be used to distribute pipes or establish centers where addicts could legally use otherwise illegal drugs under the watch of medically trained professions.

“The (Joe) Biden administration is going to be sending crack pipes and meth pipes targeting minority communities in this country, underserved communities,” Rubio said. “I know that sounds insane. I know that sounds too crazy to be true. They confirmed it yesterday. They call them smoking kits and they say it’s about equity.”

Press Secretary Jen Psaki, however, said at a White House briefing that was not the case. While “safe smoking kits” are something that can be funded through the program, she said crack pipes “were never a part of the kit.”

“A safe smoking kit may contain alcohol swabs, lip balm, other materials to promote hygiene and reduce the transmission of diseases like HIV and hepatitis,” she said. “I would note that what we’re really talking about here is steps that we’re taking as a federal government to address the opioid epidemic, which is killing tens of thousands — if not more — Americans every single day, week, month of the year.”

Additionally, smoking kits were just one of 20 items on a list of inventory that could be covered by grants, and the deadline for grant applications already passed on Monday, before initial reports surfaced. Other items that could be purchased included condoms for safe sex kits and syringes for needle exchange programs.

In an email to Florida Politics, HHS officials said the controversy began with a story in the Washington Free Beacon, but said contrary to the story, officials never planned to support kits with pipes for smoking crystal meth or crack cocaine. Rather, they said any programs must demonstrate that any supplies purchased would help prevent the spread of disease, and must comply with federal, state and local laws. In many states, distribution of such drug paraphernalia is outlawed.

Regardless, HHS never intended to make or distribute kits, and would be making grants to outside organizations.

Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra and the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) Director Dr. Rahul Gupta released a joint statement clarifying policy.

“HHS and ONDCP are focused on using our resources smartly to reduce harm and save lives. Accordingly, no federal funding will be used directly or through subsequent reimbursement of grantees to put pipes in safe smoking kits,” the statement reads.

“The goal of harm reduction is to save lives. The administration is focused on a comprehensive strategy to stop the spread of drugs and curb addiction, including prioritizing the use of proven harm reduction strategies like providing naloxone, fentanyl test strips and clean syringes, as well as taking decisive actions to go after violent criminals who are trafficking illicit drugs like fentanyl across our borders and into our communities. We will continue working to address the addiction and overdose epidemic and ensure that our resources are used in the smartest and most efficient manner.”

But Rubio said the statements effectively confirm smoking kits could be allowed to include the pipes until outrage pressured the administration to reverse course.

Now, he said Congress needs to pass laws that prevent HHS from ever funding the pipe distributions.

“I am glad the Biden administration acknowledges sending crack pipes to our nation’s addicts is a bad idea,” Rubio said. “It is pure insanity to think the federal government would fund crack pipe distribution. I will introduce legislation in the coming days to make sure this program can never pay for crack pipes, and given the Biden administration’s position I look forward to their vigorous support.”

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


  • politics

    February 10, 2022 at 1:11 pm

    yea let them smoke the parsnip asbestos benzene we are all cancer lovers.

  • Ron Ogden

    February 10, 2022 at 4:40 pm

    Washington wants to buy drug paraphernalia for users? Cool. I use a S&W 357 magnum. I want them to buy me some paraphernalia, too. Federal 158-grain Softies will do just fine. Who do I apply to?

  • not that you care

    February 10, 2022 at 7:28 pm

    12 gauge is better plus it is a misdemeanor 1 for kits

Comments are closed.


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