WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration says a government grant program to help prevent additional harm to people who use illicit drugs will not pay for safer pipes to smoke crack or meth.
The White House scrambled Wednesday to douse a firestorm from the political right, some of it with racial undertones.
Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra and White House drug policy adviser Rahul Gupta said in a joint statement that no taxpayer money would be used for pipes.
They said both agencies were “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 in the statement.
The uproar centers around a Department of Health and Human Services $30 million grant that funds harm-reduction programs and alongside a preapproved list of resources they could spend the money on, the Washington Post reported.
Safe smoking kits are listed, and according to Harm Reduction International, the kits typically include glass stems, rubber mouthpieces, brass screens, lip balm, and disinfectant wipes.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that was never the intention and blamed "inaccurate reporting" for a criticism that was cresting online, adding that pipes "were never a part of the kit."
According to the New York Times, Psaki was most likely referring to an article published by conservative news outlet The Washington Free Beacon on Monday that claimed an unnamed source from the HHS said that the kits would contain crack pipes.
After the misleading reports surfaced Wednesday, some Republican senators, including Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas), attacked the administration, the Associated Press reported.