California Legislature Passes Bill Allowing Pharmacies to Sell Sterile Syringes

Press Release August 31, 2010
Media Contact

Laura Thomas at (415) 283-6366 or Tommy McDonald at (510) 229-5215

California took a major step today towards preventing the spread of HIV and hepatitis C, as SB 1029 passed the California State Senate by a vote of 21 to 16. SB 1029, introduced by State Senator Leland Yee, will allow pharmacists statewide the discretion to sell up to 30 sterile syringes to an adult without prescription. The bill now goes to the governor for his consideration.

“The legislature did the right thing for California, and we look forward to working with the governor to make this bill a law.” said Laura Thomas, deputy state director for the Drug Policy Alliance. “This bill will save lives and save money. We thank Sen. Yee for recognizing the importance of expanding pharmacy sales in California.”

California is one of only three states in the U.S. that still prohibits pharmacists from selling a syringe without a prescription. Most states amended their laws in light of evidence that limited access to sterile syringes led drug users to share used ones, and that sharing syringes can transmit HIV and viral hepatitis. Study after study have found that pharmacy sales reduce HIV and hepatitis rates without increasing drug use, crime, or unsafe disposal of syringes.

“We know that pharmacy syringe sales works and that syringe access saves lives,” said Meghan Ralston, harm reduction coordinator for the Drug Policy Alliance. “California needs this law and these programs.”

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed legislation in 2004 to create a five-year pilot to evaluate the safety and efficacy of allowing adults to purchase and possess a limited number of syringes for personal use. The pilot sunsets the last day of 2010, and unless legislation is signed this year, pharmacies in Los Angeles County, the Bay Area and other parts of the state would have to stop selling syringes without a prescription.

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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