By Lauren Peace for Mountain State Spotlight
This story was originally published by Mountain State Spotlight. For more stories from Mountain State Spotlight, visit www.mountainstatespotlight.org.
After months of questions around a new West Virginia law on harm reduction, and a legal challenge to its constitutionality, a federal judge has ruled that the measure is enforceable.
Passed in April by the Legislature, Senate Bill 334 requires programs offering syringe exchanges to host a number of other harm reduction services, force them to deny clean needles to those who don’t return with their used needles and require them to only serve clients with state IDs in order to operate.
Syringe exchanges are widely seen by public health experts as a key measure in preventing the spread of infectious diseases like HIV and hepatitis C among people who inject drugs.
On June 25, the American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia filed a lawsuit challenging the enforceability of the law. Attorneys for the ACLU-WV argued the language in the bill was vague and made it impossible for program administrators to have a clear understanding of what would be required to comply with requirements and avoid fines.
“A lawyer can’t look at this law and tell you what conduct would and wouldn’t violate it,” said ACLU-WV Legal Director Loree Stark of the law earlier this month. “That’s a problem. Especially when those deemed to be in violation could face a $10,000 fine.”