Novel Legal Fights Loom as Nation’s First Safe Injection Site Gains Court Approval
The Philadelphia nonprofit looking to establish the nation’s first safe injection site got final approval to open its doors from a federal court in Pennsylvania on Tuesday, but, according to attorneys, the group might still have a long road of litigation ahead—one that could be paved with first-impression issues.
Blank Rome attorney Peter Kelsen, who focuses on real estate litigation, said that, while any zoning challenges will be dependent on the specific zoning and use permits that might be required to operate the facility, suits could challenge whether allowing people to use heroin at the facility constitutes a “permitted use” in a zoning context.
“We have gotten approval dozens of times for in-patient recovery and residential recovery facilities within properties zoned as hospitals, or health care institutions saying that use of substance recovery is in fact a permitted use in a hospital context,” he said, adding that the issues might not be as clear cut when it comes to supervised injection sites. “I don’t think you’re going to find anything in case law that deals with safe injection sites and zoning. … It’s such a unique category.”