Pubdate: Wed, 27 Oct 2004
Source: Trentonian, The (NJ)
Copyright: 2004 The Trentonian
Author: Charles Webster, Staff Writer
Cited: Drug Policy Alliance Network
Bookmark: (Needle Exchange)


TRENTON -- Gov. Jim McGreevey sidestepped a Senate committee yesterday
by signing an executive order that permits municipalities to hand out
free needles to intravenous drug addicts. Lawmakers -- both Democrats
and Republicans -- were quick to condemn the lame-duck governor's actions.

Advertisement Click Here "This is a sad legacy to leave," said Sen.
Ron Rice, D-Newark, of McGreevey's executive order yesterday. "Gov.
McGreevey is displaying marked arrogance by dictating on high to urban
residents who cry for relief from drug use."

Rice has been a vocal opponent to free needle hand-out programs
arguing that drug use cannot by fought by facilitating the illegal
activity with a free needle.

"This executive order is purely political in motivation," Rice said.
"Gov. McGreevey and [state health] Commissioner [Clifton] Lacy have
refused to recognize the facts that are out there about failed needle
exchange programs, and are being led by blind arrogance, rather than
helping find a solution to the drug problem in New Jersey.

"It is certain that this executive order will do more harm than good
to communities in New Jersey and to the residents -- particularly
African- Americans."

In signing the executive order yesterday, McGreevey declared a public
health emergency in cities with high HIV/AIDS infections while
insisting the free distribution of needles to drug addicts is the
answer to the problem.

"Today, there are New Jersey communities facing a public health crisis
that cannot wait," McGreevey said. "Research demonstrates that needle
exchange programs are a powerful weapon against the spread of
HIV/AIDS. Yet in the face of that research, New Jersey is one of only
two states that provide no access to sterile syringes to prevent the
spread of the disease. That changes today."

The executive order, which expires at the end of 2005, specifically
limits the free needle handout program to three cities -- Atlantic
City, Camden and a yet to be determined city, but could possibly
include Trenton, Newark, Jersey City or Paterson.

Opponents of free needle handouts for drug users immediately declared
the order unconstitutional and charged the governor with overstepping
his bounds.

"The governor's executive order is an attack on the separation of
powers enshrined in the constitution," said Sen. Tom Kean, Jr.,

"Somebody needs to tell the governor that just because he is leaving
office in three weeks doesn't mean he has the authority to ignore the
state constitution," added assemblyman Joe Pennacchio, R-Montville.
"Only the Legislature can enact laws governing the powers afforded to
municipalities. It cannot be done through executive order."

And others agreed.

"Gov. McGreevey has no right to override law," said John Tomicki, of
Citizens Against Needle Exchange.

Since announcing on Aug. 12 that he was gay, carried on a homosexual
affair and was resigning from office on Nov. 15, McGreevey has signed
several executive orders that lawmakers and others have called into

Last month, McGreevey signed an order banning contributions from state
contractors to gubernatorial candidates and officeholders only to have
it revealed that the order would expire with a new law that is set to
take effect in Jan 2006 that has a much lesser reach. That executive
order was also later declared unconstitutional.

But Assembly Majority Leader Joe Roberts, D-Camden, who tried to usher
the free needle handouts measure through the legislature before
hitting the Senate committee roadblock, defended the governor's
executive order.

"By facilitating needle exchange programs in select areas, the
governor has taken the bold step needed to contain the epidemic,"
Roberts argued.

Roberts pushed the Assembly to pass a free needle handout measure
earlier this month, but saw his efforts stall in the Senate health
committee two weeks ago putting the controversial bill into jeopardy.

The needle exchange measure has been highly controversial in the
Garden State.

Democrat financier and billionaire George Soros has funneled millions
of dollars into the New York-based Drug Policy Alliance Network, which
in turn advocated heavily for the free needle handout program.

Two weeks ago, The Trentonian reported that Drug Policy Alliance
Network had strategically funneled cash into the coffers of ranking
lawmakers who serve on the committees that are concerned with the
measure, as well as the leadership political action committees of the
two major political parties -- including a political action Roberts

After that report one of the beneficiaries of the DPAN donations
voiced his opposition to the measure.

Yesterday, Roberts insisted the Senate needed to pass his bill to make
the free needle handout job complete. 
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