Office of AIDS
California Law related to Nonprescription Syringe Sale
California law permits licensed pharmacies and physicians to sell or furnish an unlimited number of syringes without a prescription to customers over the age of 18, and allows adults to purchase and possess syringes for personal use when acquired from an authorized source. The law specifies that pharmacists, physicians, and syringe exchange programs are authorized sources of nonprescription syringes for disease prevention purposes.
Evaluation of the Disease Prevention Demonstration Project established by Senate Bill (SB) 1159 (Vasconcellos, Chapter 608, Statutes of 2004) demonstrated that increasing access to sterile syringes in pharmacies can significantly reduce rates of injection equipment sharing in California. Counties that allowed nonprescription syringe sale under the project observed lower injection-related risks among people who inject drugs and lower levels of unsafe discard of used syringes. Additionally, evaluators found no increase in the rate of accidental needle‑stick injuries to law enforcement officers and no increase in rates of drug use or drug‑related crime.
In 2011, SB 41 (Yee, Chapter 738, Statutes of 2011) built on the successes of the demonstration project by allowing nonprescription syringe sale throughout the state and removing authorization and registration requirements to improve access to sterile syringes for pharmacy customers. Assembly Bill (AB) 1743 (Ting, Chapter 331, Statutes of 2014) further expands access by removing the 30-syringe limit that had been placed on nonprescription syringe purchase, possession, sale and provision. AB 1743 also allows customers to purchase and possess an unlimited number of syringes. The law goes into effect January 1, 2015.
Download the Nonprescription Syringe Sale Fact Sheet (PDF)
California Law Related to Nonprescription Syringe Sale in Pharmacies
Under Business and Professions Code Section 4145.5, California pharmacies may sell syringes without a prescription or permit to customers 18 years of age and older and:
- Are required to store needles and syringes in a manner that ensures that they are not accessible to unauthorized persons;
- Are not required to keep a log of NPSS sales: the log book requirement was removed from state statue in 2004;
- Are not required to check customer identification in order to provide NPSS;
- Must counsel customers who purchase nonprescription syringes about safe disposal and provide for the safe disposal of needles and syringes through one or more of the following options:
o providing an on‑site syringe collection and disposal program that meets applicable state and federal standards for collection and disposal of medical sharps waste;
o furnishing or making available mail-back sharps disposal containers that meet state and federal standards for the transport of medical sharps waste; and/or
o furnishing or making available sharps containers that meet applicable state and federal standards for collection and disposal of medical sharps waste;
Must provide written information or verbal counseling to NPSS customers at the time of sale on how to access drug treatment, access testing and treatment for HIV and HCV, and how to safely dispose of sharps waste.
A Patient Information Sheet developed by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), Centers for Infectious Disease, Office of AIDS covers the information above and can be provided to pharmacy customers.
For more information on syringe access law, including information on syringe disposal, download California Legal Code Related to Access to Sterile Syringes (PDF)
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