Advocates Criticize Davis’ Decision to Veto Bill to Allow Needle Sales Without a Prescription
By vetoing a bill (SB 1785) that would have allowed adults in California to purchase up to 30 hypodermic needles or syringes without a prescription at pharmacies, Gov. Gray Davis (D) "bucked the medical establishment" and "bow[ed] to election-year politics," according to proponents of the measure, the Sacramento Bee reports. "It's unconscionable that Davis caved to drug-warrior cops instead of listening to scientists, physicians and families when considering our state's health policy," Glenn Backes, coordinator of Californians for Responsible Syringe Policy, said (Rojas, Sacramento Bee, 10/2). California law currently requires a prescription to purchase syringes, except when used to inject adrenaline or insulin. The bill, which was sponsored by state Sen. John Vasconcellos (D-Santa Clara), would have allowed licensed pharmacies to sell as many as 30 syringes without a prescription to people older than 18 in an effort to reduce the spread of HIV and hepatitis C (California Healthline, 9/12). Davis vetoed the bill because it did not require a "one-on-one needle exchange," as needle distribution programs already authorized in the state do Vasconcellos said he was "deeply disappointed" by Davis' decision, which he described as "utterly contrary to science, public health and common sense" (Sacramento Bee, 10/2).
San Francisco AIDS Foundation Executive Director Pat Christen said, "Rather than heeding the scientific evidence that syringe access reduces disease without promoting drug use or crime, Davis instead decided to prioritize politics over public health" (SFAF release, 10/1). AIDS Project Los Angeles also expressed disappointment with Davis' veto. Daniel Montoya, director of government affairs for APLA, said, "We were not surprised by the veto in an election year given the controversy that surrounds drug use. We ... are confident he will be looking at this issue again in the future" (APLA release, 10/2). Backes said he expected that the initiative would be reintroduced in the future.
Law enforcement groups and drug control organizations - two groups that "wield strong influence" with Davis - praised the governor's decision, the Bee reports. John Lovell, a lobbyist for the California Narcotic Officers' Association, said that the bill would have "undermined local control of needle-exchange programs" and would have "allowed the sale of syringes virtually out of local oversight." The California Peace Officers Association and the California Police Chiefs Association also opposed the bill (Sacramento Bee, 10/2).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.