Pubdate: Tue, 08 Oct 2002
Source: Associated Press (Wire)
Copyright: 2002 Associated Press
Author: Denise Lavoie
Bookmark: (Needle Exchange)


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 

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.