AIDS Support Group of Cape Cod, Inc. v. Town of Barnstable, Civil Action No. BACV2015-00586 (2015).

Court and Agency Decisions and Orders (including case law)

The Barnstable County Superior Court of Massachusetts granted a preliminary injunction preventing enforcement of a cease and desist order against a needle distribution program of the AIDS Support Group of Cape Cod, Inc. (ASGCC). The program distributes clean injecting instruments to people who inject drugs, with the explicit intent of reducing the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C.

Upon the discovery of large numbers of discarded needles, the Town of Barnstable deemed the situation a “public health crisis” and sent a cease and desist order to the ASGCC, citing a Massachusetts law that requires hypodermic needles be sold only by licensed professionals or those given local approval. The injunction was granted because ASGCC was distributing, but not selling, the needles.

Moreover, the Court reasoned the “Act Relative to HIV and Hepatitis C Prevention,” enabling access to clean hypodermic needles to prevent infection, showed the legislature’s shift away from criminal enforcement and towards health promotion for drug users – a public policy purpose ASGCC should continue to serve. This local public health victory came just before the effective end of the ban on federal funding for needle exchange programs earlier this year.