Gov. Kathy Hochul is expected to sign legislation on Thursday that would decriminalize the possession and sale of hypodermic needles and syringes, according to two sources familiar with the bill’s future.
While syringe exchange programs have been promoted in recent years by the state Department of Health, state law still criminalizes the possession of hypodermic needles and syringes, which may deter some New Yorkers from utilizing these harm reduction services. In addition to striking this language from the penal code, the legislation would also address advertising restrictions for needle exchange programs and enable programs to distribute more syringes per transaction.
“Once folks are aware of not needing to fear being arrested … for simply possessing a public health tool that keeps themselves and their communities safe, people will be able to access syringes more readily,” VOCAL-NY’s Biz Berthy told The Capitol Pressroom in June.
The legislation was delivered to the governor’s desk on Wednesday, in addition to four other bills that could theoretically be part of a package that Hochul might sign together. A spokesperson for the governor did not immediately respond to a request for comment.