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bill would allow over-the-counter syringe sales

bill would allow over-the-counter syringe sales

The Massachusetts house voted 115-37 Monday to allow state residents to purchase syringes without a prescription directly from pharmacists in an effort to reduce needle sharing among injection-drug users. The bill would also decriminalize needle possession.

Massachusetts is one of the last states that still ban nonprescription sales of hypodermic needles. Supporters of the hotly debated bill say it will help curb the spread of blood-borne viruses, including HIV and hepatitis C. But critics believe giving anyone access to needles could encourage the use of illegal drugs.

State representative Peter Koutoujian says 39% of HIV-positive people in Massachusetts contracted HIV by using a dirty needle or having sex with someone who did. "This legislation will be effective in reducing the transmission of HIV and hepatitis C," said Koutoujian. "We can no longer afford to put our communities at risk out of a misplaced fear for encouraging drug use."

Gov. Mitt Romney has expressed opposition to the bill. "The governor's concern is that if you allow addicts easy access to the tools of the trade, you are facilitating illegal drug use," said Julie Teer, Romney's press secretary. If the bill reaches his desk, Romney will review it before deciding whether to veto it, Teer said. (AP)

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