Massachusetts: Needle Sales OK'd After Legislature Barely Trumps Veto
July 18, 2006
On Thursday, the Massachusetts Legislature overrode Gov. Mitt Romney's veto of a bill legalizing non-prescription, pharmacy-based sales of syringes. Overturning Romney's veto required a two-thirds vote in both chambers, which was reached in the House and Senate, by votes of 113-42 and 25-11, respectively. The law goes into effect Sept. 18.
In addition to allowing persons age 18 and older to buy syringes from pharmacies without a prescription, it decriminalizes their possession and requires pharmacies to distribute pamphlets about how to seek drug treatment. The law directs state officials to study the effect of needle sales, ways to collect contaminated needles, and how to punish those who discard them illegally.
"In the beginning, it was an uphill battle," said Sen. Robert O'Leary (D-Barnstable), who first sponsored the legislation four years ago. "The longer this has played out, the more support we've gotten."
Massachusetts Democrats who supported the bill were targeted in the 2004 elections, and it has become an issue in this year's campaign for governor. Last month, Republican gubernatorial contender Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey said, "We already have a terrible problem of drug abuse, especially heroin abuse here in Massachusetts, and we need to make sure we are not sending the wrong message either to addicts or to our children by legalizing the sale of needles over the counter."
But O'Leary said studies of other states' programs found no increase in drug use or discarded needles. "I think what's going to happen is we will have less hepatitis C infection in the state, and we will have less prevalence of HIV/AIDS," said O'Leary. "Those are two things we know are going to happen."
Standard-Times (New Bedford)
07.15.06; David Kibbe
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.