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Syringe exchange bill passes Senate, House

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A bill to legalize syringe exchange programs in Colorado has passed the state legislature and is now headed to Governor Bill Ritter's desk. Ritter was a vocal supporter of needle exchanges when he was Denver's district attorney in the 1990s, and we've asked his spokesman if the governor plans to sign the bill. (We'll update this blog when and if we hear back.)

The signs are encouraging.

Lead sponsor Senator Pat Steadman, a Denver Democrat, told Westword that he collaborated on the bill with the governor's staff. And the state's chief medical officer, Ned Calogne, testified in favor of it at a hearing before the Senate Health and Human Services Committee last month. The bill went on to pass the Senate, and received approval yesterday from the House.

If the bill is given the final go-ahead, syringe exchange programs would be legal as early as August, effectively eliminating the need for underground exchanges like the one Westword profiled last year. Instead, a county or district board of health could commission an exchange program, which would swap injection drug users' dirty needles for clean ones to prevent the spread of diseases such as HIV and hepatitis C.

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