Safehouse supervised injection settlement talks fail as the DOJ pushes to dismiss civil lawsuit

A Philadelphia nonprofit and the U.S. Department of Justice are headed back to court after failing to agree over the legality of supervised injection sites in settlement negotiations that began a year and a half ago.

In a notice to community members Wednesday, Safehouse leaders doubled down on their plan to argue for the legal right to operate a site where people can use illegal substances under the supervision of experts who can intervene during overdoses.

Meanwhile, the DOJ recently filed to dismiss the civil case and committed to defending the federal Controlled Substances Act, which prohibits the opening of any place for the sole purpose of manufacturing, selling, or using drugs.

In its lawsuit, Safehouse argued that its plan to open a supervised injection or safe consumption site is legally protected on religious grounds and the First Amendment. The nonprofit stated that its leaders’ religious practices are driven by saving lives, including those who die from drug overdoses.

“We are pained that as the overdose death rate increases every year, the government is preventing us from following our deeply held religious convictions,” Dr. Frank James III, Safehouse board member, said in a statement. “The data show that overdose prevention sites save lives, and we are committed to saving lives.”

  • July 31, 2023
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