The Biden administration says it is not spending millions of dollars on free "crack pipes" for drug users.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki addressed what she called "inaccurate reporting" on the topic of a nearly $30 million in federal grants to local harm reduction programs, which provide tools and services to help minimize the risks of drug use.
Some Republicans and conservative news organizations jumped on the spending by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to suggest that people who use illicit drugs could get free pipes used to smoke them.
A preapproved list of resources to mitigate the harms of drug among users include treatment referrals, infectious-disease testing kits, condoms, and vaccinations for hepatitis A and B and "safe smoking kits," The Washington Post reports.
Asked whether the latter includes "crack pipes," Psaki said this week they do not.
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"A safe smoking kit may contain alcohol swabs, lip balm, other materials to promote hygiene and reduce the transmission of diseases like HIV and hepatitis," she told reporters during the press briefing on Wednesday.
"What we're really talking about here is steps that we're taking as a federal government to address the opioid epidemic, which is killing tens of thousands — if not more — Americans every single day, week, month of the year," she added.
Sen. Ted Cruz is one of those on the right criticizing the policy and, according to the White House, making incorrect claims about what it means.
"Biden crime policy: Crack pipes for all. What could go wrong?" the Texas Republican tweeted Tuesday.
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Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida has similarly contended that "Biden is sending free meth & crack pipes to minority communities in the name of 'racial equity.' "
"There is no end in sight for this lunacy," Rubio wrote on Twitter.
Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra and Office of National Drug Control Policy Director Dr. Rahul Gupta released a joint statement on Wednesday to clarify that pipes are not included in the safe smoking kits some local recipients of the grant may distribute.
The agencies, they said, "are focused on using our resources smartly to reduce harm and save lives. Accordingly, no federal funding will be used directly or through subsequent reimbursement of grantees to put pipes in safe smoking kits. The goal of harm reduction is to save lives."
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Psaki said Wednesday that the statement was released because of inaccurate information being reported and does not indicate a change in policy.
"These harm reduction services that will be supported by these programs are intended to save lives from an epidemic that we know is devastating to communities across the country," she added.
More than 100,000 Americans died of drug overdoses April 2020 and April 2021, the U.S. announced last year.