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Texas: District Attorney Warns of Needle Exchange Problem

August 2, 2007

Bexar County District Attorney Susan Reed is warning that legislation allowing a pilot needle exchange in the county does not supersede the state's drug laws.

"I'm telling [local officials], and I'm telling the police chief, I don't think they have any kind of criminal immunity," Reed said.

After her bill to permit needle exchange programs statewide died in committee, Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon (D-San Antonio) crafted an amendment to Medicaid legislation to permit a pilot program only in Bexar. But while the original bill included language shielding participants from prosecution under state drug paraphernalia laws, Reed said the Medicaid amendment contained no such provision.

Rather than request the attorney general's opinion on the matter, which could take six months, McClendon said she may seek a quicker resolution by meeting with the Texas District and County Attorneys Association. Supporters want to get the Bexar program up and running in time to present evidence of its efficacy to the legislators in 2009, whom they hope will revisit the issue of allowing needle exchanges statewide.

"The Legislature had a purpose for this program, and the purpose for this legislation clearly was to allow a pilot program to proceed without prosecuting those who are managing the program and those who need the benefits of it," McClendon said.

The amendment would allow the program to begin operating as of September 1, but the outreach cannot go forward until the legal questions are settled, said Aurora Sanchez, who is overseeing the committee designing it. "If it takes three or six months to get the attorney general's opinion, that's what's going to have to happen, because none of us wants to go to jail," said Sanchez, the county's executive director of community and development programs.

Back to other news for August 2007

Adapted from:
San Antonio Express-News
08.01.2007; Don Finley

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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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