Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Major Combat is Not Complete

by: Chris Bernard

While reading the many articles regarding New Jersey's newly passed syringe exchange bill my joy over the victory was mixed with frustration over a common misconception. One article read (Press of Atlantic City 12/20):
New Jersey became the last state in the nation to allow drug users access to clean needles without a prescription when Gov. Jon S. Corzine signed legislation Tuesday to allow pilot needle-exchange programs in as many as six cities.

I can tell you from my own work that Texas does not have, as of today, legal access to syringes for IDUs. This critical mistake is committed over and over again in the press. I am not accusing anyone of bad reporting, I think that this claim is simply based on a misinterpretation of a couple of well researched and peer reviewed published papers by the ABA and Temple University (see the explanation of legal analysis) regarding the legality of syringe access. This paper claims that there are legal technicality arguments for MD's to prescribe syringes to IDUs as preventative medicine, or some other possibly legal access. However the papers do not indicate what is practiced in given states or what would actually be accepted as legal in the courts.

The victory in New Jersey is not the final victory in the battle for syringe access. Texas does not yet have legal syringe exchange programs and purchasing needles in pharmacies is illegal if the pharmacist has any reason to believe her client will be injecting illicit substances. The legislative session will be starting in just a week, and with Senator Deuell filing a bill to allow for syringe access perhaps we will finally find the needle at the bottom of the haystack here in the heart of Texas.