N.J. to allow over-the-counter syringe purchases

New Jersey lawmakers have approved an amended version of a syringe-purchase bill with a measure that addresses concerns expressed by Gov. Chris Christie.

The governor conditionally vetoed the legislation because he wanted pharmacies to require proof that needle purchasers were at least 18 years old.

Sen. Joe Vitale said the Legislature passed an amended version of the bill that includes that provision.

“It was a good addition. It’s a great bill. It’s really the last step in making sure that New Jersey joins the rest of the nation in trying to reduce the spread of HIV,” Vitale said.

The legislation allows the purchase of up to 10 needles at a pharmacy without a prescription. It’s intended to reduce the spread of disease among drug users who share dirty needles. Pharmacies will provide purchasers with information about available counseling to help them treat their addiction.

New Jersey Drug Policy Alliance director Roseanne Scotti called approval of the legislation a victory for good public health.

“New Jersey has the fifth highest adult HIV rate, the third highest pediatric HIV rate, and the highest rate of HIV among women in the nation,” she said. “The leading cause of these HIV cases is the sharing of contaminated syringes. Thousands of lives will be saved.”

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