The California Legislature has sent a bill to Governor Jerry Brown that will ensure intravenous drug users have access to clean needles through 2020.
This morning the state Assembly passed Assembly Bill 1743, authored by Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), by a 53-20 vote. The state Senate passed the bill last week by a vote of 36-0.
As the Bay Area Reporter noted in a July story, Ting added a five-year sunset to his bill to address objections raised by public safety groups. Initially, his Safe Syringe Access Act would have ended the need for lawmakers to re-address the issue.
Under current California law, pharmacists are allowed to sell up to 30 syringes without a prescription. But the legislation is set to sunset on January 1, and without lawmakers extending the law, syringe sales would remain legal in just 15 counties and four cities, including San Francisco.
The new bill does remove the cap placed on the number of syringes a person could buy at one time. The governor now has 12 days to sign it into law once it reaches his desk.
“Syringes can be bought over the counter in nearly every state because the policy saves lives without taxpayer expense,” stated Ting in a press release issued after today’s vote. “Mountains of research and the medical community stand squarely behind this bill. We are not innovating, we are playing catch up. By signing the bill, the governor can put California in step with the rest of the nation.”
With access to clean syringes an effective tool in preventing the transmission of HIV and hepatitis, AIDS advocates have been pushing for passage of Ting’s bill. The San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the Drug Policy Alliance are its lead sponsors.
“This bill is an exciting breakthrough,” stated Laura Thomas, deputy state director for the Drug Policy Alliance. “Pharmacy syringe access is a proven and cost-effective way to save lives by reducing the spread of HIV and hepatitis. It has taken years of advocacy to receive such strong support for sterile syringe access inside the state Capitol.”