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Jen Psaki Says Crack Pipe Plans Are False, Smoking Kits Contain ‘Alcohol Swabs, Lip Balm, Other Materials’

On Monday, critics blasted the Biden administration after it was reported that the Department of Health and Human Services was planning to implement a $30 million grant program which would include handing out crack pipes to drug addicts.

“Applicants for the grants are prioritized if they treat a majority of ‘underserved communities,’ including African Americans and ‘LGBTQ+ persons,’ as established under President Joe Biden’s executive order on ‘advancing racial equity,’” The Washington Free Beacon wrote.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki spoke to reporters on Wednesday, and argued that the reports were false.

“HHS just put out a statement clarifying around some of the reports that crack pipes are not going to be part of the safe smoking kits funded by the administration,” Fox News’ Jacqui Heinrich asked. “But can you clarify for us, were they never a part of the kit, or were they removed in response to this reporting and this pushback?”

“They were never a part of the kit. It was inaccurate reporting and we wanted to put out information to make that clear,” Psaki responded.

Heinrich then asked Psaki, “What is in the Safe Smoking kit?

“[Safe Smoking Kits] 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 we’re taking as a federal government to address the opioid epidemic, which is killing tens of thousands, if not more, Americans every single day, week, month of the year.”

“There was inaccurate information out there,” Psaki continued on the subject of the Washington Free Beacon story. “This policy is focused on harm reduction strategies, including prioritizing the use of fentanyl test strips and clean syringes.”

“These programs are intended to save lives,” Psaki added.

“[D]oes the administration support any effort then to distribute drug paraphernalia like the crack pipes were were hearing about?” Heinrich asked.

“[T]he statement makes clear we don’t support federal funding, direct or indirect for pipes,” Psaki responded.

“What would you say to critics who are concerned that the Biden administration is somehow encouraging illegal drug use?” Heinrich asked in conclusion.

Psaki responded by saying that “we’re losing an American life every five minutes to overdose,” and that we don’t have “time for political games.”

“The $30 million grant program, which closed applications Monday and will begin in May, will provide funds to nonprofits and local governments to help make drug use safer for addicts,” reported The Washington Free Beacon on Monday. “Included in the grant, which is overseen by the Department of Health and Human Services, are funds for ‘smoking kits/supplies.’”

The Free Beacon added that a spokesman for the agency confirmed that “these kits will provide pipes for users to smoke crack cocaine, crystal methamphetamine, and ‘any illicit substance.’”

However, following multiple reports on the grant and amid widespread backlash, including from members of Congress, Health and Human Services (HHS) addressed the controversy on Wednesday. HHS Sec. Xavier Becerra and the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) director Rahul Gupta said in a press release that “no federal funding will be used directly or through subsequent reimbursement of grantees to put pipes in safe smoking kits.”

“HHS and ONDCP 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,” the statement reads.

Ian Haworth can be followed on Twitter at @ighaworth.

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