The New Jersey Assembly has approved a bill that would allow intravenous drug users to purchase needles without a prescription. The goal of the bill is to halt the spread of diseases such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C, according to NJ.com.
The bill would allow pharmacies to sell up to 10 hypodermic needles to adults without a prescription. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has not said whether he will sign the bill.
The article notes that as U.S. Attorney, Christie was against needle exchange programs. During his 2009 campaign for governor, he indicated he might change his position on the issue. His spokesman, Michael Drewniak, said, “The bill will get careful review and consideration.”
If the bill is signed into law, New Jersey would become the 49th state to allow the sale of syringes without a prescription. Delaware still requires a prescription for syringes.
New Jersey’s ban on over-the-counter syringe sales was passed in 1955. Many states repealed their bans after studies showed drug users would purchase needles in pharmacies instead of on the black market if they could.
In 1994, the governor set up a panel to study the question. Two years later, the panel recommended lifting the pharmacy ban, but the governor opposed the move. Some lawmakers said that making syringes easier to obtain would encourage drug use. The state set up needle-exchange programs in five cities in 2006.