N.Y. decriminalizes possession, sale of hypodermic needles

Under the new law, needles and syringes are no longer considered drug paraphernalia

By Kevin Tampone

ALBANY, N.Y. — Gov. Kathy Hochul signed a bill today that decriminalizes possession and sale of hypodermic needles and syringes in New York.

Under the new law, needles and syringes are no longer considered drug paraphernalia.

The state funds distribution of millions of clean needles every year to help stop the spread of diseases like AIDS and hepatitis. But police in some areas continue to arrest people for needle possession, according to the bill.

Decriminalizing possession and sale of needles will help stop that and get more people access to clean needle programs, according to the bill.

Hochul signed four other bills today, which are all meant to help the state respond to its ongoing opioid crisis:

A bill meant to promote greater use of overdose medications like Narcan by decriminalizing them. Among other things, authorities won’t be allowed to use possession of a medication like Narcan as evidence when pursuing drug charges against someone. Possession of overdose medication also won’t be allowed as evidence that a building is being used as a drug-dealing site.

  • A bill to establish medication-assisted substance use disorder treatment programs in state prisons and local jails. Medication-assisted treatment programs use a combination of counseling and medication to help people who abuse drugs. The medications could include methadone, buprenorphine and others.
  • A bill to establish an online directory of distributors of overdose medications, which will make them more accessible to New Yorkers.
  • A bill to expand the number of crimes that could make someone eligible for diversion to a drug treatment program instead of prison.

Fighting the state’s opioid crisis is personal for Hochul, she said during the bill signing ceremony in New York City. Hochul’s nephew died of an overdose six years ago.

“I do not want other families to endure this,” she said. “There are good people with great potential and they’re just dealing with an illness right now.”

DOWNLOAD: Evolving strategies to win the war on opioids (eBook)

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McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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