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Denver Mayor Proposes Allowing Three Needle Exchange Programs, Amending Paraphernalia Law


November-December 1997

Denver Mayor Wellington Webb, who originally opposed needle exchanges, proposed an ordinance to legalize needle exchange programs saying, "Something has to be done. By engaging this issue, I've come down on the side of let's implement the program, let's do it in a limited way" (Ann Schrader, "Webb wants needle exchange," Denver Post, October 14, 1997; Ann Schrader, "Cop union against needle exchange," Denver Post, October 15, 1997).

Mayor Webb's plan, which would allow three needle exchanges to operate in Denver and require the use of identification cards by program workers and participants, cannot go into effect until there is a change in state law that outlaws the possession of drug paraphernalia. Webb is calling for an amendment to the law that would exempt health workers and participants from being arrested for possession of syringes distributed by registered programs. There was an attempt in February 1997 to amend the current law, but it failed (see "Needle Exchange Bill Dies in Colorado House," NewsBriefs, March-April 1997).

The Denver Police Protective Association, an association of police officers, plans to fight the possible amendment to the municipal code that would allow three programs to operate at the October 27 city council meeting to discuss the ordinance.