October 7, 2010
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has vetoed a bill that would have allowed pharmacies across California to sell syringes to an adult without a prescription. Instead, he extended a 2004 pilot project that lets local governments decide whether to allow non-prescription syringe sales.
AB 1701, sponsored by Assembly member Wes Chesbro (D-Arcata), extends the Disease Prevention Demonstration Project for eight more years, leaving it to city councils or county supervisors to decide whether to opt in. Schwarzenegger said it balances "the competing public health, law enforcement, and local control issues."
"SB 1029 would remove the ability of local officials to best determine policies in their jurisdiction," said Schwarzenegger. "Some counties have not sought to implement this pilot program, citing competing priorities, lack of pharmacy interest, and law enforcement opposition," he wrote. "I respect these local decisions and while I appreciate the author's hard work and dedication to this issue, I cannot sign this bill."
Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco), who wrote SB 1029, said access to sterile syringes without a prescription is key to preventing the spread of HIV, hepatitis, and other blood-borne diseases. The governor, said Yee, "was not interested in an effective public health measure that would reduce health care costs to taxpayers. Not only did he ignore the recommendation of doctors and other health experts, but he ignored the fact that HIV/AIDS and hepatitis do not recognize county borders. Such epidemics are certain to continue without implementing these comprehensive strategies."
Used syringe sharing leads to 3,000 new hepatitis C infections annually statewide, more than any other transmission route, according to the California Department of Public Health. It also causes 750 HIV infections annually, making it the second-most common means of transmission.