Philadelphia proudly claims one of the greatest cultural institutions in the country, the Philadelphia Museum of Art. But the city’s latest claim to fame represents the opposite of high culture, namely what happens when a culture collapses in on itself.

Thanks to a federal court, soon visitors may be able to take SEPTA to Kensington and visit the grand opening of Safehouse, a place where heroin junkies can gather for mass injections.

This week, the U.S. District Court in Philadelphia rejected arguments that Safehouse violates Controlled Substances Act provisions aimed at gatherings in buildings repurposed for mass ingestion of deadly narcotics.

We used to call places like Safehouse a crackhouse.

Safehouse purports to be a “supervised injection site.” The theory is that such sites save lives. Helpful trained Safehouse staff will provide clean needles, monitor your intake and and keep you out of the bathtub when you are at full tilt.

The Trump Justice Department tried to stop Safehouse in federal court, calling it “in your face illegal activity.”  U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain argued that organized group drug use at a facility that existed primarily for people to take illegal drugs violated federal statutes designed to address crackhouses. The federal court disagreed.

If only Safehouses had been around in the ’60s. We might still have Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix.

What’s the solution to the opioid crisis and more than a thousand overdose deaths in the city each year? Easier access to opioids, of course, according to Safehouse’s lawyers.

Think of Safehouse as Heroin Costco, except it’s bring your own heroin (BYOH).  Looking for thrills? Like the taste?  Line up for your injections and Safehouse staff will monitor your intake and check your receipt on the way out.

The Trump Justice Department tried to stop Safehouse in federal court, calling it “in your face illegal activity.”  U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain argued that organized group drug use at a facility that existed primarily for people to take illegal drugs violated federal statutes designed to address crackhouses. The federal court disagreed.

Advocates of Safehouse scold us that supervised injection sites exist in Europe and Canada.

I believe it. I’ve been to Vancouver. Junkies roam the streets. Parts of that city are like going to a zombie movie without the movie theater.  

Safehouse proponents want Philadelphia to follow Amsterdam’s lead.

Sixty years ago, civil rights advocates put on suits and ties and their Sunday best to fight for a better world. Today, the Safehouse gang of protesters, with the support of leading Democrats like former Gov. Ed Rendell, takes to the streets to demand better access to needles and places for the masses to inject heroin. They carry signs saying “Stop the Stigma” and “Yes In My Backyard.”

By God we’ve fallen, fallen further than it seemed possible even a decade ago. Even the world of Idiocracy doesn’t seem so insane compared to this.

Safehouse is helping to collapse a once upright culture.  Where people would wear hats and ties to take in a ballgame at Shibe Park or gather in Rittenhouse Square for the Easter Promenade, now needles and stigma-free addiction are the thing. 

Safehouse is normalizing the most destructive of human behaviors. They are contributing to a full inversion of values, the banishment from the culture of shame. Instead of love and treatment being the response to heroin addiction, Safehouse will provide all the needles you can shoot — and validation.

Have fun, Philadelphia. You’ll reap this whirlwind in time, well before the saner parts of the country, where encouragement of heroin addiction isn’t as popular. In a city where elections can involve New Black Panthers with nightsticks, where Super Bowl celebrations involve looting the downtown Wawa and eating horse manure, you’ve gone all in.

J. Christian Adams is a New York Times bestselling author and president of the Public Interest Legal Foundation.

One thought on “J. Christian Adams: Philly leads the way in normalizing heroin addiction”

  1. Great post. Wish you’d talked about all the civil servants in Philadelphia who are forced to administer Narcan to people who are shooting up in public facilities, or to watch them die.

    On the other hand, I haven’t been able to take my children to the park in years because of all the needles and junkies. I’d prefer that the police arrest people who are doing this in public, but apparently there is no will for that, so I’ll settle for a safehouse if it gets some of these people off the streets.

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