Pubdate: Tue, 08 Oct 2002 Source: Associated Press (Wire) Copyright: 2002 Associated Press Author: Denise Lavoie Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/findUKP137 (Needle Exchange) STATE SUPREME COURT TO HEAR CHALLENGE TO NEEDLE EXCHANGES The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court is being asked to decide whether it is a crime for a participant in a needle exchange program in a certain city to carry needles outside that city's boundaries. The case involves Maria Landry, 22, a recovering drug addict who was arrested for shoplifting in Lynn last year. After voluntarily telling police officers she had four hypodermic needles in her purse, she was charged with illegal syringe possession, even though she is a member of an authorized needle exchange in Cambridge. It is illegal to possess a hypodermic needle or syringe in Massachusetts without a prescription, with the exception of health professionals. In 1993, the state Legislature amended the law to allow needle possession by people enrolled in pilot needle exchange programs in Boston, Cambridge, Northampton and Provincetown. But Essex County District Attorney Kevin Burke, whose office is prosecuting the case, argues it is still a crime for program participants to carry needles in a city or town that has not approved such a program. More than 30 health organizations have expressed support for the right of addicts to carry needles outside the community where they are enrolled in a needle exchange program. Sarah Wunsch, Landry's attorney, said the state's needle exchange programs would be useless if participants are not allowed to take their needles to other communities. James Lamanna, an attorney for Lynn, said the police department believes program participants should not be allowed to bring needles into the city, where there is no such program. But supporters argue the programs are important in efforts to fight the spread of HIV and other infectious diseases. The court is set to hear arguments in the case today.