A bill seeking to legalize needle exchange programs in New Hampshire is getting some pushback from law enforcement. The debate rests on whether to make it legal to have trace amounts of heroin on a needle.
If passed the measure would legalize minute amounts of heroin left on used syringes. The aim, according to sponsor Rep. Joe Hannon, is to make sure those seeking to exchange dirty needles for clean ones can do so without fearing arrest.
Currently it’s a felony to be caught with a used syringe with any amounts of heroin residue.
Timothy Pifer, Director of the state’s forensic lab, says without specifying a legal amount, police could be limited in their ability to persecute other drug crimes.
“There have been several incidences of people using injectable drugs when they are driving – our concern is, is this going to eliminate our ability to prosecute some aspect of that particular case?”
Dean LeMire, a substance misuse coordinator from Strafford County, is in long-term recovery from IV heroin. At the bill's first public hearing at the State House Wedneday, LeMire tells lawmakers that when he was using he had a hard time getting clean needles from pharmacists.
“My county currently has one pharmacy that I am aware of that aligns with state law regarding syringe access. Out of desperation I once knowingly used a syringe that has previously been used by a friend with Hepatitis C," LeMire testified.
The bill remains in the Health and Human Services Committee where if passed would go to the House floor and then the Senate.
New Hampshire is the only state in New England without a needle exchange.