February 06, 2019
Federal prosecutors have intervened in plans for a safe injection site in Philadelphia, filing a civil suit against the nonprofit organization seeking to open the facility.
The lawsuit seeks to prevent the opening of the safe injection site, U.S. Attorney William M. McSwain announced Wednesday in a press release.
Prosecutors from Pennsylvania and the Department of Justice in Washington filed suit against Safehouse and its executive director, Jeanette Bowles, alleging that the nonprofit's plans to open one or more so-called “consumption rooms” would violate federal law.
The lawsuit is, according to the release, the first of its kind in the United States, but federal authorities have threatened to shut down similar safe injection sites in the past. .
Safehouse announced last fall its intention to open a location for drug users to inject street-purchased heroin and fentanyl under the medical supervision of its own employees in light of the local opioid crisis, the release explains.
In his announcement, McSwain said he is aware that community organizations play an important role in combating the opioid scourge.
“I recognize that we are all on the same side in this fight,” he said. “The proponents of the injection site share our goal of ending this terrible epidemic. We all want solutions that save lives, but allowing private citizens to break long-established federal drug laws passed by Congress is not an acceptable path forward.”
Safehouse’s proposed facility would violate the federal Controlled Substances Act, a comprehensive regulatory scheme enacted in 1970, federal prosecutors claim, the press release explains. The Act makes it a felony to maintain any place for the purpose of facilitating illicit drug use. According to the government, that is exactly what Safehouse plans to do.