Aluminum air pipes

White House challenges reports on federal funds for crack pipes

The Biden administration on Wednesday pushed back against what it called “misinformation,” saying a federal grant program intended to reduce harm to drug users does not include taxpayer funding for pipes that can be used. to smoke crack or methamphetamine.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a statement clarifying “no federal funding will be used directly or through subsequent reimbursement to recipients to put pipes into safe smoking kits.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki later told reporters at a briefing that reports that crack pipes would be included in safe smoking kits distributed under the program were inaccurate. .

“Even though this was never part of what was funded, we felt it was important to issue a public statement from the federal government to clarify this, as we have seen the spread of misinformation and the fact that it was impacting a range of communities,” Psaki said. “And we felt, although it was never true, that we needed to issue a proactive statement.”

PSAKI said safe smoking kits distributed as part of a $30 million harm reduction program could include materials such as alcohol swabs, lip balm, clean syringes and other materials to promote hygiene and reduce the risk of spreading diseases such as HIV and hepatitis.

“I would note that what we’re really talking about here is the steps we’re taking as a federal government to really address the opioid epidemic, which is killing tens of thousands, if not more, of Americans every day. , week, month. of the year,” she said.

The grant program through HHS funds safe smoking kits and supplies that could be purchased for communities trying to combat the opioid epidemic in a way that reduces the risk of the disease spreading among users. The Associated Press reported that the grant solicitation did not specifically mention the inclusion of smoking pipes, although such materials may be part of safe smoking kits.

However, reports circulated on Fox News and other conservative outlets that the grant program was being used to fund “crack pipes”, and the story quickly spread among conservative lawmakers.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) has written to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra raising concerns about the supply of crack pipes, and she has tweeted about it multiple times this week.

“End government funded crack pipes,” Blackburn tweeted on Tuesday.

“Do you have to show your vaccination passport to get your crack pipe?” Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) tweeted mockingly.

“There is no end in sight to this madness,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said in response to the reports.

Sarah Lovenheim, HHS Spokesperson called Rubio’s comments “flagrant misinformation,” adding that grants “must follow federal, state, and local laws or regulations.”

Rubio on Wednesday welcomed the White House’s comments on the program and said he would introduce legislation in the coming days “to make sure this program can never pay for crack pipes.”

Updated at 5:39 p.m.

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