Springfield, Mass., City Council Member Withdraws Measure Decriminalizing Needle Possession, Says He Will Refile
Springfield, Mass., City Council Member Bud Williams on Monday withdrew a measure that would have decriminalized needle possession without a prescription in an effort to curb the spread of HIV and other bloodborne diseases in the city, the Springfield Republican reports. Williams withdrew the proposal because two of the nine council members -- including one of the measure's supporters -- were absent from Monday's City Council meeting, according to the Republican. Williams said he will refile the measure for consideration on Nov. 8. Williams also is preparing a separate proposal -- which he plans to introduce next month -- for the city to establish a state-funded needle-exchange program, according to the Republican (Plaisance, Springfield Republican, 10/19). Six years ago, Williams voted to defeat a similar measure to establish a needle-exchange program. The Massachusetts Legislature in 1993 amended a law that made it illegal to possess a hypodermic needle or syringe without a prescription to allow pilot needle-exchange programs to operate in Boston, Cambridge, Northampton and Provincetown. Williams in 1998 initially supported the establishment of a program in Springfield but later dropped his support, and the council defeated the measure 5-4. As of January, six out of every 1,000 people in Springfield were HIV-positive, and 44% of those individuals reported using injection drugs (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/7).
Support for both measures on the City Council is "limited," as only three members -- Jose Tosado, Kateri Walsh and Williams -- have backed the initiatives, according to the Republican. "I just want to say I think [the measure] will go a long way" in curbing HIV, Williams said. However, Council Member Angelo Puppolo opposes the measures because he says needle-exchange programs "lac[k] accountability," the Republican reports. He said he also opposes decriminalizing needle possession with a prescription because legal decisions should be made at the state, not local, level. "You can't piecemeal criminal law around the commonwealth. It has to be uniform," Puppolo said (Springfield Republican, 10/19).