NEEDLE EXCHANGE: U.S. Reps. Lobby Davis to Sign Bill
Twenty-one House members from California, including all nine Democrats from the San Francisco Bay Area, signed a letter to Gov. Gray Davis (D) late last week "urging him to support a state clean needle bill," States News/Contra Costa Times reports. AB 518, introduced by Assemblywoman Kerry Mazzoni (D-San Rafael), "would require pharmacists and physicians to give clean needles to people who lack a prescription or permit, which is currently barred under California law." The effort was spearheaded by U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), a longtime supporter of needle exchange programs. She said, "Each year, 8,000 Californians are infected with HIV, and injected drug use is the second leading cause of those infections. Needle exchange programs save lives. It is imperative that cities be able to use this proven public health tool." Phil Goldberg, a spokesperson for Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-Walnut Creek), added, "By no means is Congresswoman Tauscher endorsing drug use. This is simply about local control of policy decisions. People in the district understand that local decisions should be made by local governments." The Legislature is expected to send the bill to Davis later this week (Larson, 8/20).
More Pressure on Gray
Writing an op-ed in Friday's Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, Mayor Richard Riordan (R) and County Sheriff Lee Baca also argue that the bill "deserves legislative support as well as Gov. Gray Davis' signature." They note that the exchange program "would be implemented only in conjunction with drug recovery and other programs," while "L.A.'s operational procedures would make needles available on a replacement basis only." In addition, they write, "Needle exchange is also cost-effective," in that a "clean needle costs less than $1, while treatment of AIDS may exceed $100,000." They conclude: "This legislation would save lives. That's why we hope that California's leaders will do the right thing by approving it" (8/20).