The legal strategies used in operating syringe exchange programs in the United States

Scott Burris, David Finucane, Heather Gallagher, Joseph Grace

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Objectives. This study sought to identify the strategies used by syringe exchange programs to establish their legality. Methods. Statutes, court decisions, published studies of exchange programs, and news stories were reviewed, and telephone interviews were conducted with syringe exchange personnel. Results. Twenty-seven exchanges have been authorized by amendments to or judicial interpretations of state drug laws or by administrative action under such laws, or operate in a stale that has no laws regulating needles. At least 13 programs operate under claims of legality based on local interpretations of state law, principally public health law. The remaining syringe exchanges operate without a claim of legality. Conclusions. The deployment of syringe exchanges has been hindered by concerns about their legal status. This study shows that the applicability of drug laws to syringe exchange is open to dispute, and that local public health authorities may under some circumstances rely on their own legal authority to fund or operate syringe exchange programs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1161-1166
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican journal of public health
Issue number8 I
StatePublished - Aug 1996
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


Dive into the research topics of 'The legal strategies used in operating syringe exchange programs in the United States'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this