DENVER – In November, the Denver City Council approved an ordinance to open one pilot location that would allow people to use illegal drugs like heroin with someone nearby in case they overdose. The proposal was met with a scathing response from the federal government on Tuesday.
The United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado and the Denver Field Office of the Drug Enforcement Administration released a joint statement saying supervised safe injection sites are illegal under federal law.
In order to even open the site, the state legislature would have to vote to waive a nuisance ordinance, so the property wouldn’t get shut down for drug use on the property. The statement started with saying that such a site would be illegal under federal law, with the potential penalties including fines up to $250,000 and up to 20 years in jail for people who own or manage the site.
While the DEA and U.S. Attorney’s Office wrote that they applaud the motive and desire to address drug addiction and overdoses, they also fear these sites may attract criminals, “just like so-called crack houses.” They said the efforts to address drug use must follow federal law.
Cities across the nation are considering opening supervised use sites to combat the growing overdose epidemic. It’s estimated that emergency services in the city are responding to almost three overdoses per day. Studies have shown that supervised use sites save lives and they don’t increase crime in the areas where they are located. The program also saves money by reducing the number of 911 calls, ambulance responses, hospital stays, and treatment for transferable diseases.
To implement the supervised use site pilot program, a bill will have to pass through the Colorado State Legislature in the 2019 session