NEEDLE-EXCHANGE: State Senate Approves ‘Watered-Down’ Bill
The state Senate yesterday passed by a vote of 22-14 an amended needle-exchange bill, complete with changes asked for by Gov. Gray Davis. The new bill would permit cities and counties to authorize needle-exchange programs as needed, but they must be reauthorized every 14-21 days. The original bill, sponsored by Assemblywoman Kerry Mazzoni (D-San Rafael) and approved by the Assembly last month, "would have let cities and counties authorize open-ended programs under which drug addicts could trade used hypodermic needles for clean ones," the AP/San Francisco Chronicle reports. Regina Aragon, public policy director for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, called the amended version "a significantly more cumbersome process for some communities" (9/9). But Davis said the reason he asked for changes was "a local control issue," and that the new bill would "free cities from the threat of legal action for running their own exchanges." Mazzoni said her original bill would "ease the reluctance of localities fearful of legal action against creating needle exchanges," but the revision is "a helpful first step" (Lucas, San Francisco Chronicle, 9/10). Current state law "prohibits the furnishing, possession or use of hypodermic needles or syringes without a doctor's prescription." Four cities -- Berkeley, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Santa Cruz -- have already adopted emergency ordinances to allow such programs (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 9/9).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.