Life Saving Bill Allowing Sale of Sterile Syringes without Prescription Passes California Senate 21-12

Press Release May 22, 2002
Media Contact

Glenn Backes at 916-444-3751 or Julie Ruiz-Sierra at 916-444-3751

Sacramento – Today a bill that would allow the sale of syringes without a prescription as a disease prevention measure passed a Senate floor vote, 21-12, with seven senators abstaining.

Senate Bill 1785, authored by John Vasconcellos of San Jose, would allow adults aged 18 and over to purchase and possess up to 30 sterile syringes in an effort to help curb the spread of HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C, and other diseases. An average of 1500 HIV infections per year in California are attributable to dirty needle sharing. Yet California is one of only six states in the union that requires a prescription for the purchase of a syringe.

“Clean needles save lives,” said Senator Vasconcellos. “It is critical that California follow 44 other states in increasing efforts to make sterile syringes available.”

The bill was supported by a broad-based coalition of over 40 different organizations including the California Medical Association, the California Nurses Association, the California Pharmacists Association, the California HIV Advocacy Coalition, the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, and AIDS Project Los Angeles. The only opposition to the bill was from the California Narcotics Officers Association and the California Peace Officers Association. Ironically, making the possession of needles legal has been proven to reduce on the job needle stick injuries for peace officers.

“Unfortunately, the police are voting against their own interests on this issue,” said Glenn Backes, Director of Health and Harm Reduction for the Drug Policy Alliance. “Where needles are legal, people have less incentive to conceal them.”

A recent survey of San Diego Patrol officers revealed that 30 percent had suffered a needle stick injury on the job, most of them while searching suspects.

The bill goes next to the Assembly Health Committee for consideration, before being sent to the full assembly for a floor vote, and ultimately to the Governor’s desk.

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

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