Assembly Backs Bill To Permit State Funds for Needle Purchases
The Assembly on Tuesday approved a bill (AB 11) by Assembly member John Laird (D-Santa Cruz) that would permit state funds to be used to purchase clean syringes for distribution by needle-exchange programs, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The legislation moves to the Senate for consideration.
Needle-exchange programs are legal in California but only if authorized by a city or county. Local and state funding of such programs is legal, but California prohibits the use of state grants to purchase needles for the program. Needle-exchange programs are ineligible for federal funding.
Supporters of Laird's measure say that supplying clean syringes to injection drug users reduces the spread of HIV and other blood-borne diseases, but critics argue that needle-exchange programs promote drug use.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) in 2005 vetoed similar legislation by Laird, who also withdrew the bill last year at the governor's request to resolve his objections.
Sabrina Lockhart, spokesperson for Schwarzenegger, said the governor has not taken a position on the current measure but is working with Laird.
On the same subject, the Office of AIDS in the Department of Health Services on Friday approved $750,000 annually over three years to help fund 10 needle-exchange programs (Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle, 6/6).
The money will be used to increase operating hours, hire more staff and increase the number of needle-exchange locations (Sacramento Business Journal, 6/5). The funds will not be used to purchase needles (San Francisco Chronicle, 6/6).