New Hampshire Senators have voted to create a study commission to look at needle exchange programs rather than legalizing them. The proposal now heads back to the House, which if left unchanged, will then head to the Governor.
At first the bill wanted people in New Hampshire to lawfully exchange dirty syringes for clean ones at designated places – something 36 others states currently do, including all other New England states.
It also sought to decriminalize heroin residue found on used syringes. But many lawmakers, even those who supported the idea of a needle exchange, say the bill needs more work.
That’s why the Senate backed a commission, which would contain lawmakers from both chambers as well as members from the substance abuse community, medical field and public safety.
Rep. Joe Hannon of Lee, the main sponsor of the bill, said he would have preferred his version of the bill but says this is a positive step forward.
“Obviously that was the goal but we are not that much further from our goal right now and actually it might take us a bit longer but it will be a lot stronger when we get there I think,” Hannon said after the Senate voted.
Last year nearly 430 people died from a drug overdose statewide, mostly from heroin and fentanyl, which Hannon said raises concerns of the possible spread of HIV and Hepatitis C from sharing needles.
The commission’s recommendations are due by November, which Hannon said gives him plenty of time to have new legislation ready for next session.