UPDATE (from AP): West Virginia’s largest city has passed an ordinance to tightly regulate needle exchange programs amid a spike in HIV cases in the state. The move by the Charleston City Council on Monday night requires local exchange program operators to have a license, while those that currently aren’t certified by the state must close. News outlets report the ordinance is effective this coming weekend.

Gov. Jim Justice signed similar legislation last week. The new rules are taking effect amid one of the nation’s highest spikes in HIV cases related to intravenous drug use. The surge is clustered primarily around the capital of Charleston and the city of Huntington.

UPDATE: Charleston city council passed the bill regarding harm reduction programs. It is very similar to the bill Governor Jim Justice signed into state law.

KANAWHA COUNTY, WV (WOWK) – The battle over regulating needle exchange programs in the Capitol city continues to rage on tonight as Charleston city council members spent hours tonight discussing the controversial issue. It will go into effect 5 days from April, 19, 2021.

It’s a debate that has been going on for weeks after Charleston city council’s public safety committee sent an amended bill to the full council.

Tonight, they are supposed to vote on a final version of the bill.

This is on the heels of Governor Jim Justice signing a similar bill at the state level that takes effect in July.

City council says the passage of this bill puts regulations on certain harm reduction programs now.

Council member Shannon Snodgrass, who is on the public safety committee and supports the bill says city council has waited too long to vote on this bill.

“We have sat here. We got to a point where we were gonna vote on the bill. We tabled it – did not do our duty. We waited on the state to take care of our city of charleston business,” remarked Snodgrass.

Right now, the bill stands stating that harm reduction programs would have to be licensed by the state and cannot be given special permission by the police chief.

Multiple amendments were proposed in tonight’s meeting that is still going on.

We will keep you updated on what the final bill states and what council decides to do with it.