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Costa Mesa may expand moratorium on needle-exchange programs pending a permanent ban

Jose Garcia
The Costa Mesa City Council is considering extending the city’s moratorium on needle exchange programs.
(File Photo / AP)

The Costa Mesa City Council will consider renewing its temporary prohibition on needle-exchange programs until a proposed permanent ban can take effect.

The extension, which the council will consider when it meets Tuesday, would close a potential gap tied to the planned Aug. 5 expiration of the urgency ordinance the council adopted last year and a permanent prohibition that — assuming it’s also approved — isn’t expected to get a council vote before Aug. 6.

The Planning Commission recommended Monday that the city firm up its ban with a code amendment.

Costa Mesa Planning Commission backs making local needle exchange ban permanent »

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Costa Mesa’s existing moratorium was in response to the California Department of Public Health’s approval of a proposal from the Orange County Needle Exchange Program to distribute clean syringes and other supplies on West 17th Street between Whittier Avenue and the city boundary near Armstrong Petroleum, as well as in parts of Anaheim, Orange and Santa Ana.

Advocates of such programs say they are intended to help prevent the spread of diseases like HIV and Hepatitis C by providing clean needles and supplies to intravenous drug users.

The city has said the ban is necessary “for the protection of the public health, safety and welfare,” out of fears that free needles could draw illicit drug users to the city and jeopardize the sobriety of clients in Costa Mesa’s large recovery industry.

City staff proposes extending the moratorium for a year but suggests the council could amend it to have the moratorium end when the permanent ban goes into effect, should the council agree to codify the prohibition.

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Tuesday’s council meeting starts at 6 p.m. at City Hall, 77 Fair Drive.

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