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Colorado Needle Exchange Bill Defeated


March-April 1998

On March 10, the Colorado House Health, Environment, Welfare and Institutions Committee voted 7-4 against SB 99, which would have legalized needle exchange programs in the state. Such programs are illegal because of the state drug paraphernalia law prohibiting needle possession (Carl Hilliard, "Killing Needle Bill No Victory," Daily Record (Canon City), March 13, 1998, p. 4A; Hildegarde Chambers, "Needle-Exchange Bill Killed," Capitol Reporter, March 11, 1998, p. 1; Ann Schrader, "Needle-Exchange Issue Still Hot," Denver Post, March 3, 1998, p. 6A).

SB 99, sponsored by Senator Dottie Wham (R-Denver), passed the Senate on February 23 on a 19-15 vote. The House sponsor was Representative Steve Tool (R-Fort Collins). However, Denver Republican Party Chairman Steve Curtis denounced the measure as "un-Republican," a sentiment which was echoed by Republican State Representatives Mark Paschall and Barry Arrington at a press conference before the vote. On March 10, the House committee voted along party lines to defeat the bill; the four committee Democrats supported SB 99.

The Denver City Council passed an ordinance last November that would allow three needle exchange programs if state drug paraphernalia law were changed to legalize the possession and distribution of needles (see "Denver Mayor Proposes Allowing Three Needle Exchange Programs, Amending Paraphernalia Law," NewsBriefs, Nov.-Dec. 1997). The city of Boulder allows needle exchange programs due to Boulder District Attorney Alex Hunter's 1989 decision not to prosecute needle exchange participants (Micheal O'Keeffe, "Activist Vows Needle Exchange, Law or No Law," Rocky Mountain News," March 11, 1998, p. 5A; Ann Schrader and Peggy Lowe, "Coalition in Senate OKs Needle Swaps," Denver Post, February 21, 1998, p. 6A).

Sen. Dottie Wham - Colorado State Capitol, 200 E. Colfax Ave., Denver, CO 80203-1716, Tel: (303) 866-4875, Fax: (303) 866-2012.

Rep. Steve Tool - Colorado State Capitol, 200 E. Colfax Ave., Denver, CO 80203-1716, Tel: (303) 866-4569, Fax: (303) 866-2218.