Florida lawmakers offer bills legalizing needle exchanges

TALLAHASSEE — Florida lawmakers have introduced legislation that would legalize syringe and needle exchanges in the state.

The House bill (HB 735) will be considered by the Health Quality subcommittee on Wednesday. A companion bill (SB 808) is in the Senate.

The bills would allow the creation of programs in which drug users can exchange used IV needles and syringes for clean ones.

The idea is that such exchanges help prevent the spread of HIV and other illnesses. They are currently illegal under Florida law. Opponents say they encourage drug use.

The exchanges would be run by the state's Department of Health. The bills also would require the department to distribute educational materials and offer HIV counseling and testing.

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