Arguments scheduled this week to determine if safe injection sites are legal

Pat Loeb
September 03, 2019 - 4:00 am
A federal judge will hear arguments this week in the U.S. attorney's lawsuit against a nonprofit that's hoping to open a safe injection site in Philadelphia.

Pat Loeb/KYW Newsradio

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A federal judge will hear arguments this week in the U.S. attorney's lawsuit against a nonprofit that's hoping to open a safe injection site in Philadelphia, and hints of what each side will argue came during testimony last month.

Safehouse president Jose Benitez testified Safehouse would offer services such as counseling and connection to treatment, but would also include an observation room where clients could inject and be reached in seconds if they overdose.

"Safehouse's primary mission is to save someone's life," he said. 

U.S. Attorney William McSwain asked why Benitez hadn't tried to lobby to make the sites legal.

"Because this is an emergency. You have 1,100 people who died last year, we are up to four times the homicide rate. This is an emergency," McSwain said. 

McSwain then asked Benitez if he thought "our democratic institutions are capable of handling emergencies, as you put it?"

"I haven't seen evidence of that," Benitez responded. 

"When does an emergency become the kind of emergency where we don't have to use the normal democratic process where lawmakers make the law and we respect the law?" McSwain said.

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"We are having it out. This is what this session is," said Benitez. 

"And what are you going to do if you lose this case?" asked McSwain. 

"We're not going to operate unless we have the court's permission to do so. We agreed we are going to abide by the law," Benitez said. 

Arguments are scheduled for Thursday.