- Manchin and Rubio announced the PIPES Act, a bipartisan bill, in a press release on Friday.
- It comes after the announcement of a federal grant for harm reduction services related to drug use.
- Earlier this week, the White House and HHS denied the funding would go towards crack pipes.
Sens. Joe Manchin and Marco Rubio introduced a bipartisan bill on Friday that would block federal funds from being used to buy and distribute tools used to take drugs, like crack pipes and syringes.
The Preventing Illicit Paraphernalia for Exchange Systems Act, or PIPES Act, was announced by Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, and Rubio, a Republican from Florida, in a press release.
“Every American and West Virginian has been impacted by the drug epidemic that has killed over 101,000 Americans from April 2020 to April 2021,” Manchin said. “While this is a heartbreaking issue that must be fully addressed by the federal government, using taxpayer funds to buy paraphernalia for those struggling with substance use disorder is not the solution.”
“Everyone knows someone who has struggled with addiction, and unfortunately, many have lost a loved one from the disease,” Rubio said, adding: “We need to do more, but sending drug paraphernalia to addicts is not the answer.”
The PIPES Act would ban federal funds from being used to buy needles or syringes for the injection of an illegal substance, the press release said. It also said there would be an exception in the case of “a significant risk of hepatitis infection or HIV outbreak due to injection drug use.”
The bill also maintains federal funds can’t be used to buy or distribute pipes used for smoking illegal drugs.
The bill comes after the Department of Health and Human Services announced in December a $30 million grant for harm reduction services that focuses on preventing overdose deaths and reducing health risks associated with drug use. Such services include providing sterile syringes, safe-smoking kits, and overdose-prevention kits.
Fox News seized on the grant this week, with hosts Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity pushing the claim that taxpayer dollars were being used to buy crack pipes.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki responded on Wednesday, telling reporters crack pipes were “never a part” of the safe smoking kits. She said such kits may include “alcohol swabs, lip balm, other materials to promote hygiene and reduce the transmission of diseases like HIV and hepatitis.”
HHS also issued a statement Wednesday that said: “No federal funding will be used directly or through subsequent reimbursement of grantees to put pipes in safe smoking kits.”
Prior to introducing the PIPES Act, Manchin and other senators also sent a letter to HHS on Thursday asking about the grant program. The letter states that some harm reduction groups include pipes in their safe smoking kits, citing two Canada-based groups, Toward the Heart and Interior Health. It also said the HHS grant does not explicitly prohibit the funds from being used on pipes.
HHS did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.