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Policy & Politics

California: Lawmakers Debate Whether to Extend, Expand, End Syringe Sales

July 29, 2010

Over-the-counter syringe sales without a prescription will become illegal in California at the end of the year unless the Legislature takes action. The pilot program, signed into law by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2004, gives counties or cities, and then pharmacies within those municipalities, the option to participate.

The state Department of Public Health recently released an evaluation, which had been due by Jan. 15, on the current law. That report found needle sharing is lower in areas that opted into the program. It documented no evidence of a rise in drug use or crime; accidental needle-sticks among first responders remain rare; and there has been no increase in improperly discarded syringes.

However, the current two-step, opt-in process for allowing legal syringe sales -- first by municipality, then by pharmacy -- limits the program's benefits and creates confusion over what is legal where, the report said.

Assembly member Wes Chesbro (D-Arcata) is sponsoring a measure (AB 1701) that would extend the existing law for eight years, continuing the program as is. AB 1701 passed the Assembly by a 49-27 vote this spring and now is pending before the Senate Appropriations Committee.

SB 1029, by Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco), would permanently allow all state pharmacists to sell syringes and give adults the right to possess up to 30 without a prescription. That bill passed the Senate on May 28 and is now before the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

Opinion on both bills has been divided mostly along party lines, with Democrats in favor and Republicans opposed. Republicans are concerned that Yee's bill would replace local control with a top-down, one-size-fits-all approach and that it does not specify how often a person could buy 30 syringes.

Back to other news for July 2010

Adapted from:
Contra Costa Times
07.24.2010; Josh Richman, Oakland Tribune

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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.
See Also
Ask Our Expert, David Fawcett, Ph.D., L.C.S.W., About Substance Use and HIV
Needle Exchange & HIV/AIDS: California

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