Manchin, Rubio introduce bill following drug kit controversy

by mcardinal

Willie R. Tubbs, FISM News


Although one wouldn’t likely have thought it previously necessary, two Senators have introduced a bill that would officially and demonstrably forbid any president, federal agency, or U.S. governmental entity from using taxpayer dollars to purchase the paraphernalia required to smoke crack or inject heroine.

Friday, Senators Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) brought to the floor the appropriately named PIPES Act, which stands for “Preventing Illicit Paraphernalia for Exchange Systems.”

While the act has a funny name, neither senator seemed to have been taking the matter lightly.

“Everyone knows someone who has struggled with addiction, and unfortunately, many have lost a loved one from the disease,” Rubio said in a statement. “Addiction is crippling, not only for the individual, but also for the family and communities throughout our country. We need to do more, but sending drug paraphernalia to addicts is not the answer.”

The PIPES Act came about in the wake of the Department of Health and Human Services’ announcement that it had issued a $30 million grant to fund state and local efforts to make drug use safer. The grant came under immediate fire from critics who questioned what would be in “smoking kits/supplies” touted by HHS.

Patrick Hauf of The Washington Free Beacon even quoted an unnamed HHS spokesman who allegedly confirmed pipes would be included.

The White House and HHS have roundly denied that any kit was ever to have contained crack pipes, but the row inspired Rubio and Manchin to create legislation that would definitively end the controversy.

If passed, the PIPES Act would be mostly a reiteration of existing law. The act would reaffirm the Senate’s longtime and bicameral belief that federal funds should not be “used to purchase needles or syringes for the injection of any illegal drug, unless there is a significant risk of hepatitis infection or HIV outbreak due to injection drug use.”

Additionally, the act would clarify that the government cannot spend money to “procure, supply, or distribute pipes, cylindrical objects, or other paraphernalia that can be used to smoke, inhale or ingest narcotics.”

Most important, although ceremonial given existing law, the act would directly link these restrictions to all American Rescue Plan funding.

“Every American and West Virginian has been impacted by the drug epidemic that has killed over 101,000 Americans from April 2020 to April 2021,” Manchin said. “While this is a heartbreaking issue that must be fully addressed by the federal government, using taxpayer funds to buy paraphernalia for those struggling with substance use disorder is not the solution. Our bipartisan PIPES Act will ensure that American Rescue Plan funds can’t be used to buy illicit drug paraphernalia, and I look forward to passing legislation to address this issue quickly.”