After two decades, Congress has voted to lift a ban on federal funding of needle exchange programs. AIDS activists are cheering the move, saying it legitimizes needle exchange in the nationwide fight against HIV/AIDS.This issue illustrates perfectly the cascade of unintended consequences that arises from misguided policies. The root of the problem here is drug prohibition, because it fosters restrictions on the legal sale of syringes and, worse, raises drug prices, which encourages users to inject to get a big bang for the buck.
If needles were legally available without a prescription, many users would purchase them and avoid sharing dirty needles, even under prohibition.
And if drugs were legal, they would be far cheaper, so most users would consume via less risky methods than injection.
Government funding for needle exchanges, given current law, is compassionate and good for the public health. Yet it puts government in the awkward position of funding an activity that many citizens find distasteful or even abhorrent.
So yet again, legalization is the answer.