The following letter is in response to Injection Drug Users Sentenced to Disease, published May 21st.


Dear City on a Hill Press,


It was no surprise that President Obama retained the language that prohibits spending federal funds on syringe exchange programs in the President’s Fiscal Year 2010 Budget. We had been receiving that message since the inauguration. 

Fortunately, Obama’s disappointing inaction is not the major loss it might appear. The main mechanism for removing the ban is Congress, and currently the U.S. House of Representatives. The timing for removal of the ban in the 2010 budget is now, as the Labor, Health and Education Appropriations bill, in which the ban lies, will be put together in the next couple of weeks. 

We have shown the support for its removal by getting co-sponsors onto HR 179, the Community AIDS & Hepatitis Act, and getting promises on votes from those who have not signed on but would support removing the ban in the Appropriations process. Obama says he supports lifting the ban, but has punted it back to Congress. Our response now is critical.

Truth is, we know there is no real organized opposition to syringe exchange, we won the debate long ago, and besides being the right thing to do, the political risk is vastly overstated. For Congress to believe us, they need to hear from more of their constituents. 

First, if your Representative has not cosponsored HR 179, send them a letter asking them to today. Visit to learn about the Harm Reduction Coalition and its initiative to gain support for HR 179. 

Second, call Rep. David Obey (WI) at 202-225-3365, Chair of the Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies, and ask him to take leadership to remove the ban in the 2010 Appropriations. 


Hilary McQuie
California Director
Harm Reduction Coalition
1440 Broadway, Suite 510
Oakland, CA 94612
Tel: 510-444-6969
Fax: 510-444-6977



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