One Canadian province is moving backwards on harm reduction, the West Virginia legislature sends a bill legalizing drug test strips to the governor, and more.
West Virginia Legislature Approves Bill Legalizing Drug Test Strips. With a yes vote in the House on Friday, the legislature has given final approval to a bill that would legalize the use and possession of drug testing strips, Senate Bill 269. The bill now goes to the desk of Gov. Jim Justice (R).
Under current state law, drug testing strips are considered drug paraphernalia, possession of which is a criminal offense.
Lawmakers in 2022 passed a bill legalizing fentanyl test strips, but this bill legalizes the possession of any drug test strips.
"The most immediate thing that this legislation would allow is for us to distribute xylazine test strips, which many people have asked me about here at the clinic as part of our Harm Reduction Program. People are interested in them," said Iris Sidikman, Harm Reduction Program Coordinator at the Women's Health Center.
US, Chinese Officials to Meet Tomorrow on Fentanyl. A delegation of US officials, including officials from the DEA and the Justice, Homeland Security, State, and Treasury departments will meet in Beijing Tuesday with high-ranking Chinese officials to convene a working group aimed at cracking down on the flow of fentanyl and other synthetic drugs into he United States.
It is the first such high-level meeting between high-ranking US and Chinese officials since President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping meet in San Francisco in November, pledging to restart counternarcotics cooperation.
China is believed to be the largest manufacturer of fentanyl analogs and precursors, and even for the Chinese Communist Party, cracking down on the country's 400,000 chemical companies is a daunting challenge.
China banned the sale of fentanyl in 2019, but Chinese precursor chemical manufacturers are still shipping the chemicals to third-party markets, including Mexico, where they are used to make synthetic drugs then smuggled into the US.
It is a "really critical and pivotal moment for our direct committee implementation on this issue," said a senior White House administration official on Sunday. "It is a platform for ongoing coordination to support concrete enforcement actions with the goal of countering the evolving threat of synthetic drugs," the official said.
Canada's Saskatchewan Goes Ahead with Cuts to Harm Reduction Programs Despite Concerns. Taking a decidedly different tack from British Columbia, where drug possession is at least temporarily decriminalized, the province of Saskatchewan is moving ahead with cuts to harm reduction programs despite the mounting concern of health professionals.
The provincial government is tightening needle exchange supplies so that clients will now have to present their needles to a pharmacist in order to get new ones. And the province will quit funding drug use paraphernalia, such as crack pipes and associated supplies.
Addictions Minister Tim McLeod of the conservative Saskatchewan Party said sending pipes and instructions on how to use illicit drugs sends the wrong message. "Instead, the message coming from the health care system should be that there is hope for recovery, and help is available through treatment," he said.
But the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses says this is a regressive move. "It takes us back decades in helping people who are finding their way forward with their addictions and mental health issues," said union president Tracy Zambory. "It really is a scary time for people."