Delaware State Senator Should Push Legislation To Decriminalize Needle Possession, Editorial Says
Delaware Sen. Margaret Rose Henry (D), who has tried unsuccessfully "for years" to push through the General Assembly legislation that would allow a pilot needle-exchange program in Wilmington, should instead back legislation to decriminalize needle possession in the state, a Wilmington News Journal editorial says (Wilmington News Journal, 2/17). Henry's bill (SB 209), which is intended to slow the spread of HIV among injection drug users, would establish a five-year pilot program in which state health workers would distribute clean needles to drug users from a van in several locations throughout Wilmington. Although Wilmington Mayor James Baker (D) and the City Council support the measure, Police Chief Michael Szczerba opposes the bill. He has said that a needle-exchange program would weaken drug laws and "send contradictory and harmful messages to our children" (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/9). However, the bill "has less to do with crime than containing a dread disease that can spread through a widening circle of even innocent contacts," according to the News Journal. Currently, needle possession without a prescription is illegal in Delaware, the editorial says. Therefore, decriminalizing the possession of needles and syringes would allow social service agencies to "operate needle exchanges without financial support or interference from the state," according to the editorial. Henry "ought to realize the depth and breadth of political opposition [to needle-exchange programs] and seek an alternative approach to solving this problem," the News Journal concludes (Wilmington News Journal, 2/17).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.