New Jersey Bill May Allow Statewide Sale of Syringes

Because of their illegality, the street value of one syringe needle in New Jersey is comparable to that of a hit of some drugs, which is why many drug users will share the same needle. This is why Robin Williams, president of the Princeton Justice Project, is part of an effort to take syringes off the list of prohibited paraphernalia in the state. A bill was introduced to the state assembly May 19. If passed, it would change the current law to allow pharmacies in the state to sell a hypodermic syringe or needle to any person, instead of only to people over 18 with a prescription. According to the bill, pharmacies will be allowed to supply people buying the needles with information regarding the safe disposal of the needle and information about drug addiction. New Jersey is one of six states in the country that still requires a person to have a prescription to buy a syringe. “Most states have addressed this, and most have repealed these laws,” Williams said. The problem with banning these syringes is that in the end, most people who use drugs requiring injections will end up sharing the needles and spreading the diseases they may have. “Areas with over-the-counter [needle programs] have 14-percent-lower transmission rate,” he said. At Monday’s city council meeting, Williams spoke to the city council to ask to approve a measure in support of the bill presented to the state Legislature. Williams requested the council consider implementing this measure at a meeting in February, but the council asked him to return once a bill was proposed to the legislature. Williams said this was the first time he had the chance to come back and readdress the council. Williams said he asked for similar resolutions in other urban areas in the state such as Camden, Jersey City and Newark. Council President Jimmie Cook said the council wanted to discuss its concerns over the proposal first, and at the next meeting, it should move toward deciding whether to support the bill or not. Opponents of the bill said this measure would make needles and syringes more available and thus would encourage the use of drugs. However, Williams said this is not the case, and no study has shown a clean-needles program to correlate with an increase in drug-use The bill would not cost anything to taxpayers, because it would just allow pharmaceutical companies to sell the needles.