Kensington

Should Other Drugs Be Allowed In Philly Safe Sites?

As Philadelphia explores opening safe injection sites for opioid addicts, questions arise whether to allow other drugs such as crack cocaine.

As reported by the Inquirer, cities such as Toronto provide special kits for crack cocaine users in an effort to help limit the spread of infection. However, it is unclear whether Philadelphia will provide services for crack users, or focus on just opioid addicts.

As reported in The Inquirer, some analysts wonder whether the bias is racist: Allowing people to use certain illicit substances and not others is discrimination, and if city officials fail to include individuals who smoke crack in their plans for these sites, this response is as discriminatory as the height of the war on crack 30 years ago.

Black Americans are nine times as likely to be dependent on cocaine (which includes crack) within two years of first using it as whites, and weekly cocaine use among blacks increased by 138 percent between 2011 and 2015, presumably because cocaine is more available in black communities than it is in other places. Black Americans are also nearly six times as likely to be incarcerated on drug charges, even though whites equally sell and possess illegal drugs. If we don’t provide them the space to use substances, this plan is racist.

Individuals who use any drugs should be allowed to use them at CUES. In Toronto, people are allowed to smoke drugs outside in a smoking tent attached to a safe injection trailer. It provides them with a safe, warm, destigmatized space to smoke. Philadelphia’s CUES should create and manage similar smoking spaces – not just in Kensington, but across the city in neighborhoods like Center City, Point Breeze, Mayfair, and Manayunk. No one neighborhood should bear the weight of all the city’s drug use. And at those CUES, individuals should have access to safer crack smoking kits, in addition to clean needles.

That’s the vision for the future. Some may facetiously call it a leftist utopia; we call it slightly less racist drug policy.

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To read more about how Philadelphia is trying work out the details of its safe sites initiative, please visit Philly.com.

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