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New Jersey
needle-exchange lawsuit withdrawn

New Jersey
needle-exchange lawsuit withdrawn

Four New Jersey lawmakers last week announced they were withdrawing their lawsuit to stop needle-exchange programs in three cities because the order authorizing the exchanges had expired on December 31.

Before leaving office in 2004, Gov. James E. McGreevey declared a public health emergency and authorized syringe exchanges in Atlantic City, Camden, and a third, unnamed city. Opponents challenged the order immediately, saying McGreevey had no right to bypass the legislature on the issue.

State senators Ronald Rice, a Democrat, and Tom Kean, a Republican, joined assemblymen Joe Pennacchio and Eric Munoz, both Republicans, in filing a lawsuit against the order. In June 2005, the appellate division agreed with the lawmakers and stayed McGreevey's order. The next month, a three-judge appellate division panel shot down Atlantic City's needle-exchange program, saying it violated state drug laws. Proponents of needle exchanges have since filed a petition with the New Jersey supreme court to hear the case.

New Jersey and Delaware are the only states that do not have needle-exchange programs. Supporters say the programs help curb the spread of HIV and other blood-borne diseases among injection-drug users. But opponents argue they send the wrong message about drug use and that they fail to address underlying social ills like poverty and unemployment that lead to drug abuse.

Legislation authorizing syringe-exchange programs has been introduced in both houses of the New Jersey legislature, which convened January 10. A similar bill was approved by the assembly in the prior session but stalled in the senate. Gov. Jon S. Corzine has indicated that he would support establishing needle-exchange programs. (AP)

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