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Policy & Politics

Massachusetts: Bill Would Allow Sale of Syringes Without a Prescription

November 15, 2005

On Monday in Boston, House lawmakers voted 115-37 to allow Massachusetts residents to purchase syringes without a prescription directly from pharmacists. The bill would also decriminalize needle possession.

Massachusetts is one of the last US states that still ban non-prescription sales of hypodermic needles. Supporters of the hotly debated bill say it will help curb the spread of blood-borne viruses including HIV and hepatitis C. But critics believe giving anyone access to needles could encourage the use of illegal drugs.

Rep. Peter Koutoujian (D-Waltham) said 39 percent of people with AIDS in Massachusetts contracted HIV by using a dirty needle or having sex with someone who did. "This legislation will be effective in reducing the transmission of HIV and hepatitis C," said Koutoujian. "We can no longer afford to put our communities at risk out of a misplaced fear for encouraging drug use."

Though he was skeptical of the bill initially, Rep. Eugene O'Flaherty (D-Chelsea) said he decided to support it as way to protect public health. O'Flaherty represents Charlestown, which he noted suffers the highest number of heroin overdoses in Boston. "This is about us playing a small role in saving lives," said O'Flaherty.

Gov. Mitt Romney has expressed opposition to the bill. "The governor's concern is that if you allow addicts easy access to the tools of the trade you are facilitating illegal drug use," said Julie Teer, Romney's press secretary. If the bill reaches his desk, Romney will review it before deciding whether to veto it, Teer said.

Back to other news for November 15, 2005

Adapted from:
Associated Press
11.14.2005; Steve LeBlanc

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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.
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