Newsbrief: Human Rights Watch Calls on Schwarzenneger to Sign Needle Access Bills 9/3/04

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The California legislature has passed two bills that would ease injection drug users' access to needles, and Thursday the internationally respected human rights group Human Rights Watch called on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) to sign the bills.

Assembly Bill (AB) 2871 would eliminate bureaucratic hurdles that current hamper locales seeking to establish needle exchange programs (NEPs). Under current California law, cities and counties must declare a "health emergency" to allow the legal operation of NEPs, and that declaration must be renewed every two weeks. AB 2871 removes the biweekly renewal requirement.

"When it comes to needle exchange, excessive red tape can cost lives," said Jonathan Cohen, researcher with Human Rights Watch's HIV/AIDS Program and author of a 2003 report on sterile-syringe programs in California. "Cities and counties in California have shied away from these lifesaving programs because of the bureaucratic hurdles involved." A second bill, Senate Bill (SB) 1159 would dramatically loosen California's prescription requirement for syringe sales. The Golden State is one of only five in the nation that require a prescription to buy a needle. Under SB 1159, drug users would be permitted to buy up to 10 needles at a time without a prescription.

Providing easier access to needles is a proven means of reducing HIV and other infections. In a review this year of more than 200 studies of NEPs, the World Health Organization found that there is "compelling evidence" that needle exchange "contributes substantially to reductions in the rate of HIV transmission." The WHO found "no convincing evidence" of major unintended side effects of these programs, such as increases in drug injection.

To read AB 2871 online, visit:
http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/postquery?bill_number=ab_2871&sess=CUR&house=A&search_type=bill_update

To read SB 1159 online, visit:
http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/postquery?bill_number=sb_1159&sess=CUR&house=S

To read the Human Rights Watch report, "Injecting Reason: Human Rights and HIV Prevention for Injection Drug Users" online, visit:
http://www.hrw.org/reports/2003/usa0903/

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Issue #352, 9/3/04 Editorial: Back Home in Indiana | In Indiana, Gubernatorial Candidates' College Marijuana Use Provides Opening for Discussion of Higher Education Act Drug Provision | Outgoing New Jersey Governor Calls for Needle Access Legislation | Kentucky's New Drug Strategy: More of the Same, Plus a Drug Czar | Montana Moving Toward Appointing a Drug Czar? | Newsbrief: Alaska Supreme Court Restricts Marijuana Search Warrants | Newsbrief: European Drug Reformers Seek More Dialogue with European Union, Funding for Permanent Dialogue | Newsbrief: House Speaker Dennis Hastert Defames Drug Reform Funder Soros, New Jersey DA Joins Smear Campaign | Newsbrief: Human Rights Watch Calls on Schwarzenneger to Sign Needle Access Bills | Newsbrief: Marijuana Policy Ads Return to DC Following Court Victory | Newsbrief: Safe Crack-Smoking Kits Distributed in Winnipeg | Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cops Story | Ninety-nine Percent of All Marijuana Eradicated in US is Feral Hemp, Federal Data Reveals | This Week in History | The Reformer's Calendar
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