SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS)— Supporters of a plan to hand out clean crack pipes to San Francisco drug users say they’re not swayed by city opposition and plan to hand them out anyway.
Activists claim that such a program would have many of the same benefits of needle exchanges, essentially connecting users with services that could help them turn their lives around.
The city of San Francisco hands out 2.7 million clean needles a year to IV drug users. Advocates said clean glass pipes to crack users could also cut HIV and Hepatitis C cases.
Laura Thomas of the HIV Prevention and Planning Council has made a formal recommendation to the city’s health department. As KPIX 5 reported last week, city leaders have balked at the proposal.
“It may seem counter-intuitive, but it’s a great program. Once you can get people into your program, make them feel respected, taken care of them, they’re more likely to want to come back and want to get on HIV meds,” Thomas said.
Last week’s report set of a flurry of opposition sentiment from government officials, including the mayor’s office. Mayor Ed Lee was first with a statement, via an email from his spokesperson, Christine Falvey: “Mayor Lee is not aware of this exploration and is not supportive. There are many other HIV interventions that could and should be explored before ever considering this.”
However Isaac Jackson, a Tenderloin resident and founder of what he calls a “tiny” drug user advocate group called the Urban Survivors Network told the San Francisco Examiner “we decided that we would just begin doing it.”
Jackson said his group plans to hand out 25 to 50 clean pipes at an exchange event in march. That would violate both state and federal drug paraphernalia laws. It’s not clear if those laws would be enforced in this case.
Advocates said needle exchange faced similar controversy when it got started but was accepted after supporters pressed forward anyway.