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Arizona bill would make needle exchange programs legal

Addiction can be a powerful thing, and some people in Arizona will continue to use the drugs they are addicted to, even if doing so is illegal. Not only is the use of certain drugs illegal, but even the possession of drug paraphernalia is against the law. For example, hypodermic syringes are, under Arizona law, a type of drug paraphernalia. The distribution of drug paraphernalia in the state is a Class 6 felony.

Some people and organizations in Arizona have instituted needle exchange programs, so that those who are addicted to drugs can be provided with clean needles, which would prevent disease along with educating these individuals on how to achieve sobriety. Unfortunately, such operations have to remain "underground," since the distribution of needles is against the law.

However, one piece of legislation aims to address this. House Bill 2289 would permit health departments and private organizations to legally run needle exchange programs, so long as it does not cost anything for a person to receive a clean needle and so long as the used needles are disposed of properly. According to one professional, proactive measures like this need to be taken to prevent disease.

That being said, not everyone is on board with this bill. One county attorney in Arizona thinks that providing free, clean needles sends drug users the wrong message. However, proponents of the bill state that needle exchange programs can help drug users by educating them about drug treatment resources. According to a study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drug users who take part in needle exchange programs are five times more likely to eventually go through a rehabilitation program.

It remains to be seen whether this bill, which has bipartisan support in the face of the nation's opioid epidemic, will become law. Until then, current law still stands making the distribution of needles for drug use against the law. Therefore, it is important for those who want to run or participate in needle exchange programs to understand what their rights are should they face drug charges.

Source: Phoenix New Times, "Bipartisan Bill Seeks to Legalize Needle Exchanges In Arizona," Antonia Noori Farzan, Jan. 15, 2018

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