Gov. Davis Vetoes AIDS Prevention Bill Allowing Pharmacy Sale Of Syringes

Press Release September 30, 2002
Media Contact

Glenn Backes at 916 439 6494

Ignoring the advice of experts in disease prevention, and the strong support of a diverse coalition of associations representing physicians, pharmacists, nurses, families, retailers and unions, Gov. Gray Davis vetoed a measure late last night that would have allowed adults to purchase up to 30 syringes at a pharmacy without a prescription. The US Center for Disease Control, among other scientific bodies, recommends sale of sterile syringes as part of a comprehensive HIV and hepatitis control strategy. Scientific evidence suggests that the state would have saved multiple millions of dollars in health care costs averted by allowing adults to purchase syringes legally, a strategy that costs the state nothing.

Glenn Backes, Director of the Sacramento office of the Center for Policy and coordinator for Californians for Responsible Syringe Policy, an coalition that included, among others, the California Medical Association, California Nurses Association, California Pharmacists Association and several AIDS advocacy organizations, issued this statement today:

“This veto benefits no one but big pharmaceutical companies and funeral parlors. It’s unconscionable that Davis caved to drug warrior cops instead of listening to scientists, physicians and families when considering our state’s health policy. He turned his back on California voters, dooming all of us to pay the high price of thousands of new infections when it was in his power to stop this at no price to government. He’s lost all credibility as a fiscal conservative and a compassionate leader.”

SB 1785 the Syringe Pharmacy Sale and Disease Prevention Act by John Vasconcellos, Democratic State Senator from San Jose was supported by 65 statewide associations, but opposed by three police groups, lead by the California Narcotics Officers’ Association. The majority of California’s law enforcement groups were neutral on the bill. The Governor’s veto message ignored the arguments put forth by physicians and others that the rate of new infections could be halved by allowing adult drug users to purchase sterile syringes, an assertion based on research in other states that have legalized syringe sale.

The State Office of AIDS estimates that there are approximately 1500 new HIV infections each year attributable to dirty syringes; and the State Department of Health estimates that there are approximately 3000 new infections with the potentially deadly liver disease hepatitis-C every year attributable to dirty needles.

Backes says that the coalition has no plans to retreat. “We will be back, bigger than before. The Governor cannot hide from tough decisions forever. At some point, he will have to tell the police that they are not in charge of health policy in the state of California.”

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

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