NEWARK – Senator Ronald L. Rice, D-Essex and a leading opponent of efforts to skirt state laws through municipally funded needle exchange programs, made the following statement after the Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court decided that Atlantic City’s 2004 ordinance creating a municipal needle exchange program violated state laws:
“The decision delivered today is a good decision and I agree with the opinion as written by Judge Skillman. And while it doesn’t speak directly toward the lawsuit Senator Tom Kean, Jr. and I have against last year’s executive order allowing these programs, I believe it shows my argument before the court was right.
“From day one I have argued that some drugs require the illegal use of paraphernalia and that this ordinance, and others like it, help drug users break the law. Needle exchange programs only compound the drug problem, guaranteeing that people remain hooked and promoting the growth of gangs and their turf wars. These programs only encourage drug users to continue to pump themselves full of drugs and never become an asset to their community.
“Those who support needle exchange programs fail to account for the potential of overdosing – a danger of drug use that is more life-threatening to drug users than HIV and AIDS. Rather, they provide the tools that allow addicts to fatally overdose.
“The key to solving the drug problem in our cities is to provide treatment for users, not provide a means by which they can continue their addiction. Only then can we say to Mrs. Johnson down the street that addicts will no longer loiter in front of her house or tell mothers and fathers they can get the help they need to get clean and become good parents.
“I find it interesting that none of the health commissioners or legislators who have been so vocal in supporting needle exchange have voiced any similar support for my legislation to provide funds for facilities where HIV patients in our cities can get the care they need to fight AIDS and drug addicts can get the treatment they need to become a valuable member of the community.
“The biggest problem in our urban communities tackling the drug problem is that when addicts finally find the courage to seek treatment, they get turned away because the programs are already overcrowded.
“I hope that now, all of the community organizers and health experts and public officials that marched on my office in support of needle exchange will join with me and march on Trenton in order to get this legislation passed which will get more treatment for drug users in our cities and help us effectively combat the devastating effects that drugs have on our urban communities.”