Newsbrief: Human Rights Watch Calls California's Anti-Syringe Laws a Violation of Human Rights, Details Police Harassment of Exchanges 9/12/03

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The internationally respected human rights organization Human Rights Watch turned its attention to California paraphernalia laws and policing this week with a report calling for repeal of laws banning syringe possession -- which encourage sharing among injection drug users and increase the spread of HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C, and detailing repeated incidents of police harassment or arrest of people using legal, locally-approved needle exchange programs (NEPs) throughout the state.

The 61-page report, "Injecting Reason: Human Rights and HIV Prevention for Injection Drug Users," documents police stopping, arresting, and harassing participants in needle exchange programs established by some California counties under state law. Even where needle exchange programs are legal, police remain authorized to arrest program participants under laws prohibiting the possession of drug paraphernalia.

"Restricting these sterile syringe programs amounts to a death sentence for injection drug users," said Jonathan Cohen, researcher with Human Rights Watch and author of the report. "This is a high price to pay for the disease of addiction."

While John Lovell, a Sacramento lobbyist who represents the California Narcotics Officers Association, the California Police Chiefs Association and the California Peace Officers Association, sneeringly told the Los Angeles Times Human Rights Watch was "lying," people who work with NEPs disagreed. Shoshanna Scholar, program director of Clean Needles Now ( in Hollywood, said that while the group generally has a good rapport with the Los Angeles Police Department, some program participants have complained of officers taking needles or ripping up NEP ID cards.

Jerry Davila, the assistant AIDS coordinator for the city of Los Angeles, told the Times the same thing. "We have received some complaints that there have been some isolated cases of police harassment but I don't think it's a major problem right now."

Visit to read the report online.

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Issue #302, 9/12/03 Oops! -- "Killer Ecstasy" Study Retracted, NIDA Credibility on the Line, RAVE Act Still Law | Marijuana as Budget Saver? Study Looks at Implications of Legalization in Massachusetts | Current Action Alerts: Medical Marijuana, Plan Colombia, HEA, Ashcroft's Attack on Judicial Discretion | Perry Fund Accepting Applications for 2003-2004 and 2004-2005 School Years, Providing Scholarships for Students Losing Aid Because of Drug Convictions | Newsbrief: Human Rights Watch Calls California's Anti-Syringe Laws a Violation of Human Rights, Details Police Harassment of Exchanges | Arianna Huffington Speaks at UC Berkeley SSDP-Volunteer-Organized Event | Newsbrief: Tommy Chong Sentenced to Nine Months on Bong Charges | Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cops Story | Newsbrief: West Africa Drug War -- Business As Usual, Except for the Lizards | Newsbrief: Canadian Cities Federation Stays Firm in Support of Cannabis Decrim | Newsbrief: New Mexico Church Wins Ruling in Ayahuasca Case | Newsbrief: Pakistani Prison Officials Call for Different Treatment of Drug Offenders | Newsbrief: Dutch Government Seeks to Ban Cops from Enjoying Coffee Shops | Newsbrief: Connecticut Democrats to Propose Sentencing Reforms | The Reformer's Calendar

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