The plot thickens. If you can remember all the way back to February of this year, there was a story at the Washington Free Beacon which briefly garnered a lot of attention. The story was headlined “Biden Admin To Fund Crack Pipe Distribution To Advance ‘Racial Equity.’”
The Biden administration is set to fund the distribution of crack pipes to drug addicts as part of its plan to advance “racial equity.”
The $30 million grant program, which closed applications Monday and will begin in May, will provide funds to nonprofits and local governments to help make drug use safer for addicts. Included in the grant, which is overseen by the Department of Health and Human Services, are funds for “smoking kits/supplies.” A spokesman for the agency told the Washington Free Beacon that these kits will provide pipes for users to smoke crack cocaine, crystal methamphetamine, and “any illicit substance.”
White House spokesperson Jen Psaki was quick to denounce that story as, you guessed it, “misinformation.”
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) put out a statement clarifying “no federal funding will be used directly or through subsequent reimbursement of grantees to put pipes in safe smoking kits.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki later told reporters at a briefing that reports that crack pipes would be included in the safe smoking kits being distributed as part of the program were inaccurate.
“Even though this has never been a part of what’s been funded, we felt it was important to put out a public statement from the federal government to make that clear because we saw the spreading of misinformation and the fact that it was having an impact on a range of communities,” Psaki said. “And we felt, even though it was never true, that we needed to put out a proactive statement.”
The denial from the White House led several fact-checkers to do stories about the WFB piece. CNN’s was titled “Fact Check: Biden admin isn’t funding crack pipes” which sounds pretty cut and dried. But as Ed noted at the time, the Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler found the official denials a bit suspicious. You can read through his story to get some of the nuance. Basically, the WFB didn’t specifically confirm that glass pipes would be included in the safe smoking kits, leaving room for the White House to deny it though one drug policy group objected to that stance:
After the White House and HHS made clear that pipes would not be funded, the Drug Policy Alliance, a group that seeks alternatives to tough drug laws, issued a blistering statement headlined “Health Policy Must be Driven by Evidence, Not Dictated by Clickbait.” The statement accused the administration of “backtracking on providing critical evidence-based resources that could greatly improve the health of people who consume drugs through smoking.”
That would suggest the administration reversed course.
But Matt Sutton, a Drug Policy Alliance spokesman, could not say whether SAMHSA officials had ever indicated privately that glass stems could be funded with the grants. He noted, however, that some groups that had been planning to apply for grants had assumed that was the case.
Now jump forward to today and the Free Beacon has followed up on the story by collecting safe smoking kits in five different cities across the US. including New York, Washington, DC, Baltimore, Boston and Richmond. Glass pipes were included in all of them. The WFB has close up photos of what came in each kit they received but the bottom line is that crack pipes are often included.
While the contents of safe-smoking kits vary from one organization to another—and while those from some organizations may not contain crack pipes—all of the organizations we visited made crack pipes as well as paraphernalia for the use of heroin, cocaine, and crystal methamphetamine readily available without requiring or offering rehabilitation services, suggesting that pipes are included in many if not most of the kits distributed across the country. All of the centers we visited are run by health-focused nonprofits and government agencies—the types of groups eligible to receive funding, starting this month, from the Biden administration’s $30 million grant program.
None of the organizations responded to inquiries about whether they applied for government grants. It is not clear which organizations will receive those grants, nor has the administration said how it will ensure the kits will not contain crack pipes. The Department of Health and Human Services, which will oversee the Biden grant program, declined to provide a list of groups that have applied for funding, citing “confidentiality.” The Biden administration is set to announce grant recipients on May 15.
So we’ve established that the government is promising to fund the distribution of safe smoking kits. And we’ve established that in many if not most places these kits include glass pipes for smoking drugs, i.e. crack pipes. But we still have to establish that the specific groups distributing the pipes are also getting money from the government grant and we won’t know that until the Biden administration admits who applied for and received the money.
Of course I suspect the groups distributing the pipes can still claim they took the money to pay for everything else in the kids except the glass pipes. They can claim those were somehow paid for separately out of their own funds but would those groups be able to fund those purchases without the government help with everything else? I suppose we’ll have to wait until next week to see what excuses the Biden administration comes up with next.
Update: Here’s a photo of the kits the Beacon collected in cities up and down the east coast.
The White House said safe smoking kits don’t have crack pipes in them.
So @FreeBeacon went out to see for our selves.
— Brent Scher (@BrentScher) May 12, 2022
Update: Jen Psaki calls this a “conspiracy theory.”
A reporter, citing a @freebeacon report, asks "if any tax dollars paid for these crack pipes" in federally funded harm reduction sites.
Psaki: "No federal funding is going to that…I would just note that this is a bit of a conspiracy theory that's been spread out there." pic.twitter.com/0DF31h9JZU
— Washington Free Beacon (@FreeBeacon) May 12, 2022