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Jeffrey Singer: Arizona needs legalized needle exchanges

• tucson.com By Jeffrey A. Singer

Recently the House of Representatives unanimously approved a bill to legalize needle exchange programs in the state. It is now in the Senate for debate.

Even though there are seven functioning needle exchange programs in Arizona, they technically are illegal because of laws that expressly prohibit the sale or distribution of drug paraphernalia. So they operate under the radar. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Thomas Rivera, R-Peoria, would add Arizona to the 30 states that explicitly permit needle exchange programs, and five states that have no laws prohibiting them.

 Needle exchange programs have existed since the 1980s. Originally developed in the Netherlands in the 1970s, they operate throughout the developed world. The oldest continuing program in the U.S. started in Tacoma, Wash., in 1988. As of 2012, needle exchange programs were operating in at least 35 states.

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