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Senate May Remove Ban On Needle-Exchange Programs

Armen Hareyan's picture

Washington, D.C., Mayor Adrian Fenty and other district leaders should "remain vigilant" as the Senate this month likely will vote on a $21 billion appropriations bill that would lift a ban on city funding for needle-exchange programs, Grant Smith -- legislative assistant for the Office of National Affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance -- writes in a Washington Post letter to the editor in response to a Nov. 30 Post editorial (Smith, Washington Post, 12/4).

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The House in June passed the appropriations bill after lawmakers voted to remove language that prevents the district from financing the programs. The ban was first imposed under a federal law signed by former President Clinton in 1998 that prohibits the district government from using local tax money to fund any organization that operates a needle-exchange program. The House has added the ban each year to the district's appropriations bill (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/2).

According to Smith, the bill has "languished in the Senate since July." District leaders should be aware this month, "when the Senate will be in a rush" to pass the bill, Smith writes, adding that the Senate "should reject any last-minute attempts to restore the ban."

Only after President Bush "signs the bill can the district focus on delivering on its promise to infuse critically needed money" into needle-exchange programs, Smith writes, concluding, "We cannot afford to assume Congress and the president will do the right thing" (Washington Post, 12/4).