The Missouri House is advancing a bill to make it legal for organizations to provide free needles to drug users.
Republican Rep. Holly Rehder on Tuesday said Missouri groups now pass out clean syringes to intravenous drug users with the goal of preventing the spread of hepatitis C and HIV through dirty needles.
But state law bans possessing drug paraphernalia, which puts the needle exchanges in murky legal waters.
Skeptics in the House questioned whether exchanges will make much of a difference in the fight against the opioid epidemic and raised concerns that it would enable drug misuse. But Rehder says it could help build relationships between health professionals handing out needles and addicts, hopefully leading more to treatment. House members gave the measure initial approval in a voice vote.