Pennsylvania lawmakers unveil marijuana legalization bill with emphasis on social fairness

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The United States Supreme Court is under increasing pressure to consider the legality of establishing safe injection sites where people can use illicit drugs in a medically supervised environment, Attorneys General of 10 states and DCs filing amicus brief urging judges to take action.

Representatives from 14 cities and counties, as well as the mayor of Philadelphia, who is at the center of the ongoing case, have also filed amici briefs in support of the case in recent days.

Attorneys General for Delaware, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia, as well as Washington, DC, said to the Supreme Court in last week’s brief that safe consumption facilities “are emerging as a promising solution.” measure to save lives and fill an urgent gap in medical care.

“Amici States are battling a national opioid crisis that kills more than 130 people every day,” senior prosecutors said. “They are on the front lines of this public health emergency, fighting to save their citizens from overdose deaths. As a result, they share a keen interest in ensuring that multiple and effective interventions are available to fight the epidemic, prevent opioid use disorders, and treat people suffering from opioid dependence.

The brief cites research showing that harm reduction services can alleviate overdose deaths and help people stay in treatment.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the opioid crisis, killing far too many Americans, including district residents who continue to overdose,” DC Attorney General Karl Racine said (D), who led the case, in a press release. .

Many attorneys general who are now asking the Supreme Court to take up the supervised consumption case also joined a brief earlier this year in a separate federal case regarding access to psilocybin for patients with psilocybin. Cancer.

The ongoing harm reduction case, meanwhile, concerns the nonprofit Safehouse, which was set to launch a safe consumption site in Philadelphia before being blocked by a court challenge from the Trump administration. He filed a petition with the country’s highest court last month to hear the case.

Beyond the state brief, local officials in cities and counties in the United States are also imploring the Supreme Court to reconsider the matter.

The signatories include the lawyer from Albuquerque, New Mexico; Austin, Texas; Chicago, Illinois; New York, New York; Oakland, California; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; San Diego, California; San Francisco, California; Seattle, Washington; Somerville, Massachusetts; King County, Washington; Los Angeles County, California; Multnomah County, Oregon; and Washtenaw County, Michigan.

“There is growing evidence that overdose prevention sites can reduce mortality from this epidemic and produce significant community health and public safety benefits,” local officials wrote. “Sites like the one Safehouse also offers other federal public health policies, as they advance goals and methods recommended by several federal agencies. “

“The promise of overdose prevention sites is neither in vain nor hypothetical. It’s based on real-world facts, research and precedents, ”they continued. “Overdose prevention sites would help stop – or at least slow down – the loss of life in communities of amici.”

Local Somerville officials separately participated in a hearing Monday before the Massachusetts State Legislature’s Joint Committee on Mental Health, Addiction and Recovery on bills to decriminalize drug possession and legalize safe consumption sites. The official said there are plans to launch a secure injection center in the jurisdiction. And they want to see the bill passed statewide to provide additional protections against federal sanctions.

Another recent amicus brief came from Philadelphia Mayor James Kenney (D), who argued that the “benefits of overdose prevention sites are well researched and well documented: they save lives, provide a valuable gateway towards treatment and reduce the other harms associated with opioid use. . “

A coalition of 80 current and former prosecutors and law enforcement officials, including one who is President Joe Biden’s choice for US attorney for Massachusetts, had previously filed a brief urging the Supreme Court to take up the case Secure injection safehouse.

Fair and Justice Prosecution, the group that coordinated the amicus case, also organized a tour of Portugal for 20 leading prosecutors in 2019 so that they could learn about the successful implementation of the country’s drug decriminalization law. country.

If the Supreme Court were to take up the case and rule in favor of Safehouse, it could encourage lawyers and lawmakers across the country to pursue the policy of harm reduction.

The governor of Rhode Island signed a bill in July to establish a safe consumption site pilot program where people could test and use currently illegal drugs in a medically supervised environment. It became the first state in the country to legalize harm reduction centers. It is not clear whether the Justice Department will seek to intervene to prevent the opening of such facilities in that state.

Massachusetts lawmakers proposed similar legislation last year, but it was ultimately not enacted.

A similar harm reduction bill in California, sponsored by Senator Scott Wiener (D), was approved by the state Senate in April, but other measures have been delayed until 2022.

At the same time as Safehouse is turning to the Supreme Court, he also recently announced that he would return the Federal District Court which gave him a first victory in 2019 in favor of the creation of a supervised injection site before it ‘he is overturned by the Court of Appeal. .

The organization makes the unique argument that the federal government’s decision to prevent it from providing the service violates religious freedom by subjecting participants “to criminal penalties for exercising their sincere religious beliefs that they have an obligation to do all they can to save life and provide shelter and care for vulnerable people, including those suffering from drug addiction.

In 2018, a congressional subcommittee approved a law specifically prohibiting Washington DC from using local taxpayer money to help open safe consumption facilities. But this provision was not promulgated and has not been reintroduced since.

A 2020 study found that people “who reported using supervised injection sites at least once a week had a reduced risk of death compared to those who reported less than weekly use or no use at all. health Service “.

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