The Justice Department responded to questions by The Associated Press and said that it was "evaluating" these facilities and is in talks with regulators about "appropriate safeguardrails."
This is a marked change from the position taken by the Justice Department in Trump's administration when they vigorously opposed a plan to open safe consumption sites in Philadelphia . The Justice Department won last year's lawsuit. A federal appeals court in Pennsylvania ruled against the Justice Department that such a facility would be illegal under a 1980s-era drug statute. This law was intended to stop "crackhouses" from operating illegal drug distribution facilities. In October, the Supreme Court declined to hear the case.
Six weeks later, New York City's first safe injection site was opened. It opened in November. These two facilities, which the city refers to as "overdose prevention centres", provide drug users with a safe place to inject drugs. They also have staff and supplies to reverse overdoses.
These sites are found in Canada, Australia, and Europe. They have been discussed for many years in New York City and other U.S. states. Several unofficial facilities were operating for some time.
Advocates hail them as a way of reducing the number of deaths from overdose. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention based on the most recent death certificate data estimated that more than 100,000 Americans had died from drug overdoses between May 2020 and April 2021.
Critics argue, however that safe injection sites encourage drug use and are a burden on neighborhoods.
The Justice Department, under Attorney General Merrick Galrland, has refused to make a public statement on safe drinking sites for months. Officials say that they are now weighing the use.
"We cannot comment on pending litigation," the Department stated in a Friday statement to the AP.
According to OnPoint NYC (the organization that runs them), the New York City sites have prevented more than 125 overdoses from more than 642 users. Many of these users have made multiple visits.
Sam Rivera, executive director, said that he was happy and relieved at the Justice Department's announcement. He said that the group was eager to share its experiences with the agency.
He said, "I believe that they will land at the right place here, and we'll all be able to, collectively, expand this health initiative that saves lives every day."
Former Mayor Bill de Blasio was a Democrat who allowed the opening of the centers. He stated that city attorneys believed the federal statute was "aimed at drug traficking, and not at medical facilities," as he described the consumption sites.
U.S. Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (a New York City Republican) has asked Garland to stop them, citing last year's appeals court decision against the Philadelphia plan. In November, she told Garland that it was "imperative that [you] enforce this legal precedent", and she wasn’t happy to learn about the new Justice Department statement.
Malliotakis stated in a statement that instead of stopping deadly drugs flowing over our borders, putting drug dealers behind bars, and helping people overcome addiction, the Democrat leadership encourages illegal drug use.
Other federal agencies have also indicated a willingness to at least explore safe injection facilities. When Dr. Rahul Gupta, White House drug czar, was asked about New York's sites, he said that he was interested in "looking at the science and data behind all the emerging harm reduction techniques."
The National Institutes of Health issued a call to harm reduction research later that month. It included safe consumption sites as well as other approaches.