Grant Program Won’t Use Taxpayer Funding for Crack Pipes: Biden Administration

By Mimi Nguyen Ly
Mimi Nguyen Ly
Mimi Nguyen Ly
Mimi Nguyen Ly is a senior reporter for the Epoch Times. She covers U.S. news and world news. Contact her at
February 9, 2022Updated: February 9, 2022

A new $30 million federal grant program intended to reduce harm from illicit drugs will not be using federal funds to purchase pipes for smoking crack or meth to include in safe smoking kits, the Biden administration said on Wednesday.

In a joint statement, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra and Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) Director Dr. Rahul Gupta said their agencies 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,” they said. “The goal of harm reduction is to save lives.”

“The administration is focused on a comprehensive strategy to stop the spread of drugs and curb addiction, including prioritizing the use of proven harm reduction strategies like providing naloxone, fentanyl test strips, and clean syringes, as well as taking decisive actions to go after violent criminals who are trafficking illicit drugs like fentanyl across our borders and into our communities.

“We will continue working to address the addiction and overdose epidemic and ensure that our resources are used in the smartest and most efficient manner.”

The HHS statement comes after the Washington Free Beacon reported that a HHS spokesman told the outlet the safe smoking kits will provide pipes for users to smoke crack cocaine, crystal methamphetamine, and “any illicit substance.”

Following the HHS statement, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki was asked at a press conference whether the crack pipes were removed from the smoking kits as a response to social media pushback that occurred after some media outlets emphasized in their headlines that “crack pipes” were going to be funded by the administration.

“They were never a part of the [smoking] kit, it was inaccurate reporting, and we wanted to put out information to make that clear,” Psaki told reporters.

When asked what is in the safe smoking kit, Psaki said, “The safe smoking kit may contain alcohol swabs, lip balm, other materials to promote hygiene and reduce the transmission of diseases like HIV and hepatitis.”

“I would note that what we’re really talking about here is steps that we’re taking as the federal government to address the opioid epidemic … [HHS] put out the statement because there was inaccurate information out there and we wanted to provide clarification on the allowable uses for the HHS Harm Reduction Program. It’s not a change in policy,” she added.

The Epoch Times has reached out to HHS for comment.

The Drug Policy Alliance, a New York-based non-profit, suggested that the smoking pipes were originally included in the smoking kits. In a media statement late Wednesday, the organization wrote that the government agencies “will no longer be allowing federal funding to go towards putting pipes in safer smoking supplies.”

In a statement on Twitter, the Drug Policy Alliance wrote, “[HHS’s and ONDCP’s] decision today to remove pipes from safe smoking equipment is deeply disappointing.”

Its executive director, Kassandra Frederique, said the federal government is “backtracking” on the matter.

“Backtracking on providing critical evidence-based resources that could greatly improve the health of people who consume drugs through smoking is a huge missed opportunity that will disproportionately be felt in Black and Indigenous communities, especially as these communities have experienced some of the sharpest increases in overdose deaths involving fentanyl, cocaine, and methamphetamine,” Frederique said. “Despite nearly identical rates of drug use in Black and white communities, Black, Indigenous, and communities of color have long been disproportionately criminalized and treated with handcuffs and rap sheets—as we remember all too well from the 80s and 90s with the ‘crack epidemic’—instead of the public health tools they need to live healthier and more stable lives.”

Separately, Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) late Wednesday put a hold on the stopgap spending bill the House passed on Feb. 8, until HHS reissues the grant “to assure the American people that U.S. taxpayer dollars will not be used to distribute drug paraphernalia.” Blackburn had on Tuesday expressed concerns in a letter to HHS over the smoking kits.

“Today’s claims by White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki and Secretary Becerra mean nothing given that the HHS-approved FY 2022 Harm Reduction Program Grant specifically allows for government-funded smoking kits. We will not allow this administration to continue lying to the American people,” she said in a statement.

The HHS’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration issued a Notice of Funding Opportunity (pdf) for its 2022 Harm Reduction Program Grant in which smoking kits were one among many components of the grant.

Among the equipment and supplies the administration intends to purchase to enhance harm reduction efforts, besides smoking kits, are harm reduction vending machines, infectious diseases testing kits, medication lock boxes, FDA-approved overdose reversal medication, safe sex kits, including PrEP resources and condoms, screening for infectious diseases, sharps disposal and medication disposal kits, substance test kits, including test strips for fentanyl and other synthetic drugs, clean syringes, vaccination services, and wound care management supplies.