Even though city officials said “absolutely no,” activists with a drug user advocacy group are moving forward with a plan to distribute clean – and free – crack pipes to drug addicts in San Francisco anyway.
Lots of them.
Claiming that clean crack pipes can help prevent the spread of HIV and hepatitis C – just as distributing clean heroin needles did – activists with the “proud to be a drug user,” Urban Survivors Network, will hand out 50 to 100 pipes a day starting in March, according to a report from KPIX 5, the CBS affiliate in San Francisco.
And they claimed they are prepared to go to jail for doing so because crack pipes are illegal in San Francisco.
Mayor Ed Lee’s office immediately issued a statement last week when KPIX 5 broke the story saying he was not supportive of any such idea. “There are many other HIV interventions that could and should be explored before ever considering this.”
The director of the city’s Department of Public Health, Barbara Garcia, called the station to say, “This is a recommendation from a community group. And we get lots of different kinds of recommendations. That recommendation has not come to me. And I’m telling you that if it did, I would say absolutely no, we are not going to distribute crack pipes. We have a lot of things to consider for those who are using crack for improving their health. And the distribution of crack pipes is not something I’m going to consider.”
However, the advocates noted there was resistance to passing out clean needles at first, too, but the practice “became accepted after supporters pressed forward anyway,” the article said.
Realizing that the odds of passing HIV through a pipe are a lot smaller than using a contaminated needle, the activists consider distributing clean crack pipes a type of “outreach effort,” because “crack users are a population identified as at major risk to have HIV and they often become disconnected from medical services and stop taking their medicine.”
The best response, though, denouncing such “San Francisco absurdity,” came from the chairman of the San Francisco Republican Party, Harmeet K. Dhillon, who told KPIX 5:
Continuing the theme of San Francisco being the Utopian petri dish of America, this is the utmost of San Francisco absurdity. The use and abuse of cocaine in every form is a serious scourge on the most vulnerable populations in our city, but rather than fighting the problem and providing real solutions to these addicts, we just seem to be giving up and enabling their self-destructive behavior. There is zero evidence showing that handing out ‘clean’ crack pipes to addicts will do anything to prevent the spread of HIV and other diseases, and this just sounds like another pathetic idea to entertain viewers of ‘The Daily Show.’
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