Camden on Tuesday became
the second New Jersey city to announce plans to conduct a needle exchange
program (NEP) in defiance of law enforcement officials. As DRCNet
reported last week, Atlantic City recently announced its intention to operate
such a program, prompting opinions from local prosecutor Jeffrey Blitz
and New Jersey Attorney General Peter Harvey that state law does not allow
municipalities to engage in NEPs.
Needle exchange has been
shown to reduce the rate of HIV and Hepatitis C infections in injection
drug users. Although New Jersey has the nation's fifth-highest rate
of HIV infection, with more than half of new infections associated with
shooting dope, it is one of only five states that requires a prescription
to purchase a needle and, along with neighboring Delaware, one of two that
has not passed laws allowing NEPs.
But Roseanne Scotti of the
Drug Policy Alliance (http://www.drugpolicy.org)
found an obscure provision of a 1999 criminal code revision that included
government entities (such as municipalities) among those groups exempted
from the laws regulating the distribution and possession of syringes.
While Scotti's reading of the law has been backed up by city attorneys
in Atlantic City and Camden, as well as needle exchange law experts, Atlantic
County Prosecutor Blitz and Attorney General Harvey disagree.
Camden isn't waiting for
the lawyers. At a city council meeting Tuesday, the council voted
to approve a first reading of an ordinance that would establish a NEP in
Camden. Introduced by Councilman Ali Sloan-El, the ordinance would
place the program under the city Department of Health and Human Services.
The department would supervise two programs, one at a facility run by the
AIDS Coalition of South Jersey, the other a mobile program operated by
the Camden Area Health Education Center.
Sloan-El told the Philadelphia
Inquirer that Camden suffered from an epidemic of HIV and and Hepatitis
C due to the sharing of contaminated needles and that providing clean ones
was necessary. "We feel it is a human service," he said. "We're
trying to cut the spread of AIDS."
While officials in both Atlantic
City and Camden have expressed a willingness to go to court over the issue,
state Sen. Nia Gill has provided one possible alternative. In response
to Attorney General Harvey's opinion that city-operated NEPs were illegal,
Gill has filed a bill that would make their legality explicit.
After years in the cold with
Republican Gov. Christine Whitman, a passionate opponent of needle exchange,
drug reformers hoped Democratic Gov. James McGreevey would be more amenable
to the idea of NEPS. But while McGreevey has said he supports NEPS,
he qualified that by adding only in hospital-based drug-rehab programs.
There are none in New Jersey. Relief could come through the courts
or through the legislature via the Gill bill. In the meantime, more
than 30,000 needle-sharing New Jerseyites are getting HIV each year.
-- END --
Issue #339, 5/28/04
Editorial: Judge the System |
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DRCNet Interview: Frank Fisher, MD |
Medical Marijuana Minds Gather in Charlottesville |
Federal Appeals Court Upholds Oregon Assisted Suicide Law -- DEA Threats to Prosecute Hindered Pain Control |
Newsbrief: Camden Opens Second Front in New Jersey Needle Exchange Rebellion |
Newsbrief: Needle Exchange Comes to Paraguay |
Newsbrief: Ohio Man Deported for Minor Marijuana Conviction Found Murdered in Brazil |
Newsbrief: Life for Meth |
Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cops Story |
Newsbrief: Kentucky Prosecutor Offers to Drop Charges in Return for Sex -- X-Rated Romp Caught on Video |
Newsbrief: Supreme Court Expands Police Search Powers Again -- Cops Can Now Search Parked Cars Incident to Arrest |
This Week in History |
Media Scan -- Too Many to List in the Headline This Time! |
3rd Annual Drug War Vigil Film Festival and Contest |
Job Opportunities at MPP |
Job Opportunity: Campaign Coordinator for Marijuana Policy Reform, ACLU Drug Policy Litigation Project |
The Reformer's Calendar
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