Congress Authorizes Needle Exchange in D.C.
Special Report - January 3, 2008
As part of a $500 billion-plus spending bill passed in late December, the U.S. Congress has authorized the use of taxpayer-funded needle exchange programs in the nation’s Capitol. Although federal lawmakers prohibited the District of Columbia from using federal funds for “distributing sterile needles or syringes for the hypodermic injection of any illegal drug,” they lifted a nine-year ban on the use of local D.C. taxes for these purposes when they approved H.R. 2764The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2008. As a result, District of Columbia Mayor Adrian Fenty has already announced that $650,000 of taxpayer dollars will be spent to fund needle exchange programs in the District.
Needle exchange programs provide heroine and cocaine addicts and other intravenous drug users with clean needles, syringes and other drug paraphernalia, often at taxpayer expense, and they typically grant program participants immunity from laws that criminalize the possession of drug paraphernalia. Legislation was proposed in both the North Carolina House and Senate in 2007 to legalize needle exchange programs here, but the provisions were removed from both the House and Senate budget bills prior to passage.
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