Biden Administration Considers Safe Consumption Sites & Cannabis Decriminalization To Address Public Health Emergency

As opioid overdoses and deaths continue to rise to alarming rates, institutions charged with stemming the crisis are beginning to consider alternative solutions.

The Biden administration will prioritize “harm reduction” as a response to drug abuse while examining information on marijuana legalization and safe injection sites, said White House drug czar, Dr. Rahul Gupta.

“For the first time in history, the federal government is embracing the specific policies of harm reduction,” Gupta told the Financial Times

"Every life is precious and worth saving. If this Strategy is implemented as intended, we could save 164,000 lives over the next three years, and help tens of millions of people get into treatment and on the path to recovery. The President and I are committed to seeing this through because American lives depend on it," Gupta said in a written testimony at a Sentate Caucus on National Drug Control Strategy.

"As a practicing physician of 25 years, I have seen what happens when people do not have the supports they need for treating and managing their substance use disorders: loss of employment, loss of family, loss of community, and too often, death."

Previously in December, Gupta signaled the possibility of safe injection sites, urging the administration to consider every option to address the crisis including allowing safe injection sites but only if evidence shows their efficacy.

Data from the CDC revealed that over 107,000 people died of a drug overdose last year in the U.S, an increase of nearly 50% in two years. Based on these statistics, Gupta said it's evident that decades of anti-drug campaigns have been a failure.

Safe Consumption Sites 

Overdose prevention centers are safe spaces for people to consume pre-obtained drugs in controlled settings under the supervision of trained staff. Users will have access to sterile consumption equipment, tools to check their drugs for the presence of fentanyl, and connections to health care, counseling and referrals to health and social services, including drug treatment.  

Safe consumption sites already exist in Canada and Europe and are often considered a helpful tool in saving thousands of lives of people who would otherwise have accidentally overdosed. Those who oppose them claim the facilities encourage drug use.

Last December, New York City became the first in the nation to open two overdose prevention centers (OPC) where people can use illicit drugs and receive medical care and services.

While the Biden administration is funding the distribution of the overdose prevention medication naloxone, fentanyl drug testing strips and sterilized syringes to addicts across the nation, it has yet to remove a ban on OPC.

As for marijuana legalization, Gupta noted that the White House position should be based on science by analyzing the experiences of the 19 states in the US that have already legalized adult use.

 “We’re learning from those states. We’re monitoring the data and trying to see where things go," Gupta said. "But one thing is very clear, and the president has been clear about that. The policies that we’ve had around marijuana have not been working.”

Photo: Benzinga Custom Images Source: Shutterstock

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Posted In: CannabisNewsPoliticsMarketsGeneralBidenCannabis DecriminalizationDr. Rahul GuptaFinancial TimesSafe consumption SitesWhite House Drug Czar
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