New Jersey Legislation Legalizing Needle-Exchange Programs May Pass After ‘Major Shift’ in Government Support
The Newark Star-Ledger on Sunday profiled New Jersey's "major shift" in support of legalized syringe sales and needle-exchange programs, both of which could limit the spread of HIV, since Gov. James McGreevey (D) took office. New Jersey is one of only six states, including Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Illinois, California and Delaware, in which the sale of syringes is illegal, and a bill introduced in the New Jersey House could make needle-exchange programs legal in the state. During her administration, former Gov. Christine Todd Whitman (R) was strongly opposed to needle-exchange programs, and groups that attempted to run such programs during her administration were arrested. Critics have blamed the Whitman administration's policy for the fact that injection drug use accounts for 46% of HIV cases in New Jersey, compared with 25% of HIV cases nationwide, according to the Star-Ledger. State Health Commissioner Clifton Lacy, who along with McGreevey favors the legalization of the sale of syringes as well as hospital-based needle-exchange programs, said that such programs are "a sensible public health initiative," adding that "[n]ot only to protect drug users, but to protect their families and children and romantic partners." Buoyed by the support of the administration, state Rep. Reed Gusciora (D) plans to hold hearings in the fall for a bill that would legalize the sale of syringes in the state, paving the way for cities and not-for-profit organizations to start exchange programs (Campbell, Newark Star-Ledger, 6/15).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.