Safe drug houses – they’re places where you can go do your drugs where people who run them have training in emergency care and have the drugs on hand to revive you if things start to go south.
So someone in Pennsylvania started one of these drug houses. And the U.S. Government filed a lawsuit. They’re asking the U.S. courts to rule that drug houses violate the U.S. Controlled Substances Act. This is a federal law we’re talking about, not a state law, so it applies to everybody.
Several groups have joined in the fray by filing an amicus curiae brief about how the U.S. Controlled Substances Act doesn’t prohibit safe drug houses. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel is one of them. She signed onto a brief arguing in favor of the safe injection houses. An amicus brief is basically volunteering an opinion even though you don’t have anything to do with the case.
The brief’s arguments for safe houses are basically that drug addiction is a big problem (yes), and that states have broad powers to address social problems (yes), so drug houses should be legal even though the federal law says that they’re not (no).
Here’s the problem. The law says in plain language that they’re not legal. No matter how bad the drug problem is, or what police powers the states have, they need to change the law if they don’t like it. Telling the court to ignore the clear language of the law is not how we do. Well, maybe in Traverse City that’s how we do. But we shouldn’t.
Are Safe Drug Houses Legal Under the Controlled Substances Act?
No, safe drug houses are not legal under the Controlled Substances Act. The law is the Controlled Substances Act sections 801-971. It says:
It shall be unlawful to…manage any place…and knowingly make [it] available for use…for the purpose of using a controlled substance.
The law clarifies that it covers for profit and not for profit, paying customers and freebies. It covers everything.
And Nessel’s response is yeah, but the crisis, so let’s invalidate the law without us having to bother getting the legislature to pass a new law. Peculiar attitude for an attorney general, but elections have consequences so here we are.
Dana Nessel AND Safe Drug Houses
What Nessel and the other signatories are doing is asking the courts to legislate from the bench. Wouldn’t it be just as easy, not to mention proper, to have the legislature make an exception in the Controlled Substances Act for supervised drug houses where such and such emergency response is provided and certain life-saving drugs are on hand? It would be no problem at all for the legislature to sign that law and have it go into effect immediately. (I’m just a bill…oh, I’m only a bill…and I’m sitting here on capitol hill.) In the legislature, where this belongs, a fair debate on the topic could occur. So why the run around to have the courts declare something legal that isn’t? Why skirt the legislative process? Are they afraid of the debate?
What I don’t get is what happens when someone driving home after doing their drugs hurts someone else, and that person sues the drug house. I don’t see how that isn’t a liability issue for the drug house people, other than the fact that they might live on grant money and donations and will never have the funds on hand to pay a victim. And they’re in the good graces of the attorney general, apparently, so do the victims even matter?
Another question I have is what about privacy. A safe drug house isn’t medical care. Would the location keep a record of who comes and goes? Would that record be available to anyone who wanted to know? Like you know, the probation people? Employers? Gossipy neighbors?