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PHAI Publishes Case Study Examining Litigation Surrounding Atlantic City’s Needle Exchange Ordinace

March 29th, 2010

PHAI documented Atlantic City’s 2004 passage an ordinance establishing a municipal needle exchange program. Atlantic City faced an HIV/AIDS public health crisis with one in forty residents infected and sixty percent of infections related to injection drug use.

The Atlantic City Department of Health and Human Services (“DHHS”), working in conjunction with Drug Policy Alliance of New Jersey (“DPA-NJ”), proposed a municipal needle exchange ordinance after the state legislature repeatedly failed to enact needle exchange legislation. The DHHS informed the Atlantic County Prosecutor and law enforcement of the proposed ordinance. The County Prosecutor told DHHS and the press that he believed the ordinance violated New Jersey’s criminal drug paraphernalia laws.

After consulting DPA-NJ, and with full support of the Mayor of Atlantic City and the head of the City Council, the ordinance was formally proposed and passed into law. The Atlantic County Prosecutor immediately filed suit to enjoin implementation of the ordinance, and the law was overturned in court. Despite the invalidation of the ordinance, Atlantic City’s bold action to address its public health crisis focused media attention on the HIV/AIDS issue and generated the political will necessary to successfully enact state-level needle exchange legislation in 2006.

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