Florida Sues Biden Admin for Refusing to Honor FOIA Requests About Crack Pipe Purchases

florida sues foia
Gage Skidmore from Surprise, AZ, United States of America, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

By Bethany Blankley (The Center Square)

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody is suing two federal agencies for failing to respond to Freedom of Information requests filed over a year ago. The FOIA requests relate to a Biden administration program that allegedly used taxpayer money to purchase crack pipes for drug addicts, she said.

In February 2022, Florida sent FOIA requests to the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services asking for records about the use of federal grant funds being used to promote drug use through safe smoking kits, some of which reportedly included crack pipes and other drug-related paraphernalia.

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Over a year later, neither agency responded to the FOIA requests and Moody sued.

The lawsuit states that the federal agencies “failed to process and make a determination regarding Florida’s February 9, 2022 FOIA requests within the statutory time limit and are unlawfully withholding records requested by Florida under 5 U.S.C. § 552.”

By not responding to Florida’s request, the agencies were causing irreparable harm, the lawsuit states, because they are “continuously denying Florida access to documents that it has a legal right to” and “no monetary damages can compensate Florida for this loss.”

“Florida will continue to be irreparably harmed unless and until Defendants are compelled to conform their conduct to the requirements of the law,” the complaint states.

The lawsuit, filed on Wednesday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida Tallahassee Division, asks the court to order the agencies “to conduct a search for any and all records responsive to Florida’s FOIA requests and to demonstrate that they employed search methods reasonably calculated to uncover all records responsive to the requests.” It also requests the court to order them to “produce, by a date certain, any and all non-exempt records responsive to Florida’s FOIA requests and an index of any responsive records withheld under claim of exemption.” It also requests the court to enjoin the agencies from “continuing to withhold any and all non-exempt records responsive to Florida’s FOIA requests” and reimburse Florida’s costs and reasonable attorney’s fees.

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“If Biden is using your tax dollars to buy crackpipes for drug addicts, you have the right to know,” Moody said in a statement. “Our country is in the grips of a drug overdose crisis, and the Biden administration is stonewalling our requests and keeping the public in the dark about so many misguided, reckless policies. We are taking them to court to get answers for the American people.”

In December 2021, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced a new $30 million harm reduction grant designed to address a national substance use and overdose epidemic. The harm reduction kits include a range of items including a safer smoking kit, which excludes “pipe/pipettes and other drug paraphernalia,” according to its website. SAMHSA also states, “No federal funding is used directly or through subsequent reimbursement of grantees to purchase pipes in safer smoking kits. Grants include explicit prohibitions of federal funds to be used to purchase drug paraphernalia.”

However, Washington Free Beacon investigators went to harm reduction organizations in Baltimore, Boston, New York City, Richmond and Washington, D.C., last year and reported they received smoking kits with glass crack pipes and instructions on how to use “the pipe, heat-resistant mouthpieces, wooden sticks for packing the mesh into the pipe.”

Last May, the Beacon published photographs and detailed information about the smoking kits it received. Investigators also met nonprofit employees reportedly receiving federal and private organization grant money to offer residents crack pipes, meth pipes, and other accessories. One center advertised, “One pipe per person, once a day.” Another advertised that its pipes are made of Pyrex to withstand high heat, according to the report.

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When asked about the SAMHSA grant program last year, former White House Press Secretary Jenn Psaki told reporters that crack pipes “were never a part of the kit” and the Beacon’s report “was inaccurate reporting.” She also said, “We don’t support federal funding, indirect or direct, for pipes,” USA Today reported.

Moody describes the SAMHSA program as “reckless” as drug overdose deaths continue to skyrocket and argues the $30 million in taxpayer money will only worsen the already record-high national debt.

Syndicated with permission from The Center Square.

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