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Election 2022

‘I’m For Decriminalizing Across The Board’: Fetterman Pushes Weak Drug Policy Amid Opioid Epidemic

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John Fetterman

Democrat John Fetterman, who is running for US Senate in Pennsylvania against Republican Dr. Mehmet Oz, supports decriminalizing all drugs, including heroin despite the ongoing U.S. opioid epidemic, and controlled injection sites, which are locations that allow individuals to use illegal drugs under medical supervision.

“I’m pro legalizing marijuana, but I go even further than some of my colleagues because I’m for decriminalizing across the board,” Fetterman affirmed in a 2015 interview with The Nation. “I see it as a public-health issue, not a criminal issue. I’ve seen first hand for the last 14 years the effects it has on families.”

During a 2018 podcast interview with Aaron Watson, Fetterman recalled a meeting he had with the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) in which the organization was shocked by Fetterman’s push to “legalize heroin.”

“I’ll never forget the meeting I had at the DSCC where, you know, you assess yourself and your candidacy. And one of the things I kept talking about was the opioid crisis. And they’re just like, ‘wait, what are you talking about? For example, you want to legalize heroin?’” Fetterman said.

Fetterman’s advocacy for weaker drug laws extends beyond just the use of drugs. According to documents reviewed by the Washington Free Beacon, in June 2021, Fetterman was the only member of the Pennsylvania’s Board of Pardons—which he chairs as lieutenant governor— to vote to commute the sentence of Wayne Covington, who had been sentenced to life in prison after he shot and killed an 18-year-old for money to buy heroin while high on drugs.

During the 2018 interview with Aaron Watson, Fetterman also addressed the drug crisis and called for “safe injection sites” to be considered.

“I think it’s important that we as a society get in front of it,” Fetterman said. “I think it’s important that we as a society have all the options on the table — including needle exchange, which is only technically legal in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh — and even safe injection sites that are being considered.”

In 2020, Fetterman’s wife, Gisele Barreto Fetterman went as far as saying she would “enthusiastically” welcome injection sites in her “backyard.”

It should be noted that evidence suggests injection sites could actually worsen drug use in the long run, however. In an analysis of one study, Hudson Institute senior fellow David Murray explained that “participation in facility services did not reduce either the number of injections, nor the number of overdose events, over time,” which suggests that the sites “may actually lessen the incentive for participants to enter treatment and recovery.”

Still, when Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner pointed out that “harm reduction strategies like overdose prevention sites” have “no negative impact on drug use or crime,” Fetterman dismissed the evidence and simply said “harm reduction, reduces harm.”

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