Objectives. This study sought to identify the strategies used by syringe exchange programs to establish their legality. Methods. Statutes, court decisions, published studies of exchange programs, and news stories were reviewed, and telephone interviews were conducted with syringe exchange personnel. Results. Twenty-seven exchanges have been authorized by amendments to or judicial interpretations of state drug laws or by administrative action under such laws, or operate in a stale that has no laws regulating needles. At least 13 programs operate under claims of legality based on local interpretations of state law, principally public health law. The remaining syringe exchanges operate without a claim of legality. Conclusions. The deployment of syringe exchanges has been hindered by concerns about their legal status. This study shows that the applicability of drug laws to syringe exchange is open to dispute, and that local public health authorities may under some circumstances rely on their own legal authority to fund or operate syringe exchange programs.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health