New Jersey needle exchange creates contradiction in drug policy

After 13 years of tireless effort and debate, New Jersey has waved the white flag of surrender to join the other 49 states in their liberalized views on drug treatment.

Recently, the Democrat-controlled legislature passed a bill sponsored by several state politicians, including state senators Nia Gill (D) and soon-to-be retired William L. Gormley (R), for a pilot needle exchange program.

This will impact six of New Jersey’s municipalities, with Camden, Paterson and Atlantic City already visibly thrilled at its passing. The “Bloodborne Disease Harm Reduction Act” also contains $10 million tucked away for drug treatment.

Still awaiting action is a bill permitting the non-prescription sale of up to 10 syringes through a pharmacy. The Assembly has already passed the bill, but it has yet to travel through the Senate.

Needle exchange programs create an environment for injection drug addicts to exchange their used needles for sterile ones. The idea behind these initiatives is to reduce the spread of diseases like HIV and hepatitis, which are commonly transported through blood, and to help with their addiction.

Advocates of easy access to clean syringes in New Jersey, whether it’s through a needle exchange program or a pharmacist, point to many statistics. The Garden State has the fifth highest amount of HIV cases and is home to the largest number of women infected with the disease in the nation. Forty-five percent of all HIV cases were caused by dirty syringe sharing, and the state’s rate of HIV infection related to the use of contaminated needles is twice the federal average.

On the national side, 75 percent of AIDS cases involving women and children are the result, directly or indirectly, of injection drug use. Thirty-four percent of all AIDS cases come from drug users and their sexual partners.

No one can dispute the noble aims of these programs. By encouraging the use of sterile syringes, they are minimizing the deadly threat of possible illness that lurks behind every plunge of the needle – despite the lethal drug substance itself, of course.

However, in a country that champions drug abstinence, this is a clear abandonment of principle.

America has spent hundreds of billions of dollars in trying to achieve a “drug free” society. D.A.R.E. programs dominate elementary schools just as “Operation Pipeline” does the major highways by laying out a drug courier profile in an effort to intercept drug traffickers. Anti-drug commercials flow through the airways, and the overall American mentality on drug use is that of decadence and the tool of degenerates.

By Gov. Jon Corzine signing the “Bloodborne Disease Harm Reduction Act,” New Jersey’s government is ultimately turning a blind eye to heavy drug use. It allows criminals to get a free pass, where they would otherwise get incarcerated if caught.

The state of New Jersey is now like the infamous “flip-flopper” John Kerry: Where does it stand on the issue? The government is sitting in the middle of a seesaw, afraid to have either seat touch the ground; however, it cannot support both.

There are already many outspoken critics of the “war on drugs,” claiming it to be a useless, unnecessary and inefficient battle. Regardless, that is the policy the United States and many other countries have chosen to take.

But with more and more liberal drug policies, such as this newly signed act, the “war on drugs” will arguably be hindered even more, sending drug users subtle approval of their actions.

This piece does not endorse a harsh or lenient policy on drugs, but seeks to show the hypocrisy in our legislators that sponsored this bill, while still abiding by firm, existing anti-drug laws. If these politicians truly support these needle exchange programs, both in New Jersey and other states, they should begin to fight for less restrictive laws on drugs.

It is quite possible that some of our elected representatives secretly disagree with strict drug policies and do not openly defy them due to the political risk. If this is the case, they need to be public with it for the betterment of society because America cannot continue to pump billions of taxpayers’ dollars into the “war on drugs” while at the same time acknowledging a law that tolerates the very practice it is trying to obliterate. With both being implemented simultaneously, they work hand-in-hand to undermine the other.

Until New Jersey and America as a whole pick a definite stance on drugs, these two conflicting views adopted by many governments weaken the effectiveness at addressing the controversial drug issue.

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