A New Jersey judge has invalidated an Atlantic City ordinance that authorized the health department to distribute hypodermic needles to help prevent intravenous drug users from contracting AIDS, the Newark Star-Ledger reports. Superior Court Judge H. Valerie Armstrong said municipalities lack authority to institute such programs. Her ruling, which the city plans to appeal, raises doubt about a similar ordinance approved by Camden this summer.
State legislators are working with Gov. James McGreevey on a plan to make hypodermic needles legally available to drug users. McGreevey is seeking to legalize needle exchange programs before he leaves office Nov. 15. New Jersey ranks fifth among the states in the number of AIDS cases. State officials say 60 percent of those cases can be attributed to drug use — twice the national average. New Jersey and Delaware are the only states that ban all forms of needle distribution and decriminalization. Atlantic City enacted an ordinance in June allowing distribution of needles to bring under control what officials say is an HIV epidemic. One in 33 city residents is infected with the virus.