Boston Mayor Supports Measure That Would Decriminalize Sale of Hypodermic Needles Without Doctor’s Prescription
Boston Mayor Thomas Menino (D) on Wednesday called for the Massachusetts Legislature to approve a bill (H 1087) that would allow the city's pharmacies to sell hypodermic needles without a prescription to injection drug users, which could help curb the spread of HIV, the Boston Herald reports (Silberman, Boston Herald, 1/29). Currently, Massachusetts is one of five states -- including California, Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania -- that require a prescription to buy needles (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 12/5/03). Under Massachusetts law, state residents, with the exception of certain health professionals, cannot possess hypodermic needles without a prescription. However, the state Legislature in 1993 amended the law to allow state participants in pilot needle-exchange programs in Boston, Cambridge, Northampton and Provincetown to possess hypodermic needles. In addition, the state Supreme Judicial Court in December 2002 unanimously ruled that state residents who receive hypodermic needles through one of the state's four needle-exchange programs may not be arrested for possession of the needles in communities without such programs (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 12/9/02). Menino said that the measure would help to "preven[t] the spread of AIDS. We've known that for years." Lawmakers who oppose the measure said that it could lead to increases in drug use, according to the Herald. However, public health advocates said that there has not been a trend of an increase in drug use when allowing the sale of needles without a prescription, the Herald reports. Jean Flatley McGuire, a Northeastern University public health professor and former director of the state's HIV/AIDS bureau, said, "We know that clean needles work. We have to use them in the fight [against HIV/AIDS]" (Boston Herald, 1/29).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.