Massachusetts court hears needle-exchange case

BY Advocate.com Editors

October 12 2002 12:00 AM ET

The Massachusetts supreme judicial court on Thursday heard arguments in a case that addresses 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, Mass., 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, where she obtained the needles.

It is illegal to possess a hypodermic needle or syringe in Massachusetts without a prescription. 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.

Prosecutors in the case argue it is still a crime for program participants to carry needles in a city or town that has not approved such a 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. A decision is expected later this month.

Tags: Health

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