Associated Press (11.21.11) - Wednesday, November 23, 2011
The Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee on Monday
voted 8-1, with two abstentions, to approve a measure that
would allow pharmacies in New Jersey to sell syringes to
intravenous drug users (IDUs). Such over-the-counter sales are
banned in only New Jersey and Delaware.
The bill seeks to provide IDUs access to clean needles by
allowing licensed pharmacies to sell up to 10 syringes or
needles at once. Passed by the Senate in February, it now
heads to the full Assembly.
Proponents argue providing clean needles will help curb the
spread of HIV, hepatitis C, and other blood-borne diseases. "A
tremendous amount of medical organizations support the over-
the-counter sales of syringes," said Assembly member Reed
Gusciora, a sponsor. "New Jersey needs to keep up with the
rest of the country." Opponents, however, have concerns about
the state legitimizing the use of illegal drugs.
Assembly member Nancy Munoz overcame reservations to support
the bill, but she has requested that New Jersey investigate
how other states address needle disposal issues.
Blogger and videographer Jay Lassiter testified before the
committee about his past IV drug use. Calling for bipartisan
support, Lassiter said both sides could be satisfied by
helping the disadvantaged while inhibiting the spread of
diseases and the resulting public health expenses.
In 2008, New Jersey became the last state to provide IV drug
users legal access to clean needles through limited needle-
exchange programs in six cities. Delaware ratified a similar
law for a five-year pilot program in 2006 and renewed it in
July; however, it only applies to Wilmington.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is not expected to take a
formal position on the measure before it reaches his desk.