Mike the Mad Biologist

When Lifting a Needle Exchange Ban Isn’t

You might think that a bill winding its way through Congress which would lift the ban on organizations using federal funding for needle exchange programs would be a good thing. And it would be a good thing, except for this little provision:

A bill working its way through Congress would lift a ban of more than 20 years on using federal money for needle exchange programs. But the bill would also ban federally financed exchanges from being within 1,000 feet of a school, park, library, college, video arcade or any place children might gather — a provision that would apply to a majority of the country’s approximately 200 exchanges.

“This 1,000-foot rule is simply instituting the ban in a different form,” said Rebecca Haag, executive director of the AIDS Action Council, an advocacy group based in Washington. “Clearly the intent of this rule is to nullify the lifting of the ban.”

I’m going through a mental map of Boston in my head, and I don’t think there is a single spot in the city that isn’t within “1,000 feet of a school, park, library, college, video arcade or any place children might gather.” It’s a city. Maybe if you stuck it at the top of the Prudential building–can we use the hypotenuse when calculating 1,000 feet?

Either this is a way to de facto kill the bill, or the authors are incredibly ignorant of urban areas. Of course, the two aren’t mutually exclusive…

Comments

  1. #1 Eric Lund
    November 9, 2009

    Maybe if you stuck it at the top of the Prudential building–can we use the hypotenuse when calculating 1,000 feet?

    I don’t think that helps. My back of the envelope calculation says that you would still have to be about 650 horizontal feet (roughly two city blocks, depending how big they are in Boston) from any such amenity, and the Boston Public Library is close to that radius. You could probably find places in Logan Airport that satisfy that rule, but I suspect the FAA and/or TSA would not like the idea.

    Likewise with other cities I am familiar with. About the only suitable location in Miami is that Julia Tuttle Causeway bridge that’s already the only place in the city that registered sex offenders can live. Even in New Hampshire you would have to get out into suburban or rural areas to comply: every spot I can think of within 30 miles of my house that meets the requirements has a two acre (or larger) minimum lot size, and the areas that need it most–Hampton Beach, Plaistow, parts of Manchester–are definitely off limits.

  2. #2 fcc
    November 9, 2009

    Deer Island might do it, but Homeland Security would probably nix it.

  3. #3 Dr. Kate
    November 10, 2009

    Really, it’s the “any place children might gather” that gives it away. Kids are kids–they might gather anywhere! Not only does it basically ban needle exchanges everywhere, it makes the law impossible to contest–all prosecution has to do is demonstrate that children might, under some somewhat realistic scenario, gather there. Completely unacceptable. (Plus, how do you define “children”? Presumably as written this could exclude needle exchanges from slums where a lot of homeless kids live…)

  4. #4 llewelly
    November 10, 2009

    Can’t you just put the needle exchange 1001 feet underground? After all, anyone who wants to prevent the spread of disease among needle users obviously belongs in Hell anyway …

  5. #5 ABradford
    November 10, 2009

    I wouldn’t worry about the library, I’ve been there and there isn’t a kid in sight, but the mall at the base of the Prudential building is another story.

  6. #6 Eric Lund
    November 10, 2009

    I wouldn’t worry about the library

    You don’t get that choice. “Library” is explicitly listed as one of the facilities that can’t be within 1000 feet of your needle exchange program site.

  7. #7 Constance Reader
    November 11, 2009

    #4 — well said, sir!

  8. #8 Isis the Scientist
    December 7, 2009

    Who pulled the number “1000″ out of their ass?