Are Safe Injection Houses Legal?

Like many of you, I read the article that is making the rounds about safe injection houses and a federal attorney’s effort to shut down a safe injection house in Pennsylvania. A U.S.¬†Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania is trying to close an injection house in his jurisdiction. He says that the concept of safe injection sites violates federal law. That got me wondering, are safe injection houses legal under Michigan or federal law?

What is a safe injection house?

A safe injection house is a place where someone can go and use drugs under supervision. The location offers trained staff and supplies in order to prevent harm that can come from using dirty needles and respond quickly if a person shows signs of an overdose. Supporters say that safe injection sites are the answer to the opioid crisis. Opponents say that there is no safe way to use illegal drugs.

Are safe injection houses legal under Michigan law?

No, safe injection houses are not legal under Michigan law. Michigan law prevents any person from owning or maintaining a drug house. Michigan law 333.7405 prohibits safe injection houses from operating legally in the state.

Michigan’s drug house law is MCL 333.7405. The law says that you can’t:

“(d) Knowingly keep or maintain a store, shop, warehouse, dwelling, building, vehicle, boat, aircraft, or other structure or place that is frequented by persons using controlled substances in violation of this article for the purpose of using controlled substances or that is used for keeping or selling controlled substances in violation of this article.”

The law is pretty clear. It covers any kind of structure or place of any kind. Any “building” or even “dwelling.”Even boats, cars and planes make the list. If the place is “frequented by persons using controlled substances in violation of this article for the purpose of using controlled substances,” it’s a no-go.

That’s exactly what a safe injection house does. It literally invites people to come there and use controlled substances in violation of the controlled substance laws. There’s no exception in the law for a facility that monitors its users or a facility that promises help in the event of an overdose. Essentially, there’s no way that a safe injection house can be the legit drug house on the block among drug houses. They would have to change the law.

Are safe injection sites legal under United States law?

No, safe injection sites are not legal under United States law. The U.S. Controlled Substances Act prohibits maintaining a drug-involved premises.

21 USC 856(a) says that it’s against federal law to:

“Knowingly open, lease, rent, use or maintain any place, whether permanently or temporarily, for the purpose of manufacturing, distributing or using any controlled substance.”

and illegal to:

“Manage or control any place, whether permanently or temporarily, either as an owner lessee, agent, employee, occupant, or mortgagee, and knowingly and intentionally…make available or use, with or without compensation, the place for the purpose of unlawfully…using a controlled substance.”

Well that’s pretty cut and dry. It’s illegal to use any place for the purpose of using any controlled substance, and it’s illegal to manage any place to knowingly use, even without compensation, a controlled substance.

So safe injection sites are prohibited by both federal and Michigan law. If the law is wrong, advocates need to change the law. Until then, they need to abide by it.

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