Vitale needle sale bill passes out of committee

TRENTON – The Senate Committee on Health and Human Services moved a hypodermic syringe bill today with all senators voting yes save state Sen. Dawn Marie Addiego (R-Evesham), state Sen. Fred Madden (D-Washington Twp.) and state Sen. Ronald L. Rice (D-Newark).

The bill would permit pharmacies to sell hypodermic syringes and needles without a prescription. The intent is to “make these instruments more accessible to New Jersey residents seeking to protect their own health, and to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C and other blood borne diseases,” according to the bill, sponsored by state Sen. Joe Vitale (D-Woodbridge). 

“If this disease were a wealthy white problem it would have been addressed a long time ago,” Vitale told the committee on the heels of testimony by progressive activist Jay Lassiter, a former self-identified junkie who advocated on behalf of the bill.

As a self-described member of “the hood,” Rice said he does not support the bill. It’s isolated action enmeshed with lobbyists that barely pricks the surface of urban problems, the senator said. 

“You’ve got the needles,” Rice said with a wave of his arm to the room. “Come in here now and fight for treatment centers. When do you argue for serious money in the state?”

State Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Teaneck) and Vitale both identified the late Sen. Wynona Lipman of Newark as an icon and role model, who strove for a needle exchange program.

“I feel her spirit here today,” Weinberg said.

Vitale needle sale bill passes out of committee