Anti-Overdose Law Gives Christie a Chance to Show He Is Less Mindlessly Draconian Than Other Drug Warriors

Last week the New Jersey legislature passed a bill aimed at improving emergency response to overdoses by giving people who call 911 immunity from prosecution for certain drug offenses, and yesterday California's legislature approved a similar bill. If both states' governors (Chris Christie and Jerry Brown, respectively) sign the bills, that will make 10 states with such "Good Samaritan" laws. (The others: New York, Illinois, Washington, New Mexico, Colorado, Florida, Rhode Island, and Connecticut.) Roseanne Scotti, New Jersey state director for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), explains the rationale:

Calling 911 should never be a crime. Our current policies focus on punishment and drive people into the shadows and away from help. Saving lives should always take priority over punishing behavior. A Good Samaritan law will encourage people to get help.

The number of drug overdose deaths counted by the CDC doubled between 1999 and 2005. DPA notes that "the majority of overdose victims do not actually die until several hours after they have taken a drug, and most of these deaths occur in the presence of others, meaning that there is both time and opportunity to summon medical assistance." 

Both anti-overdose bills were supported mainly by Democrats but also by some Republicans. The New Jersey bill, which applies to charges for sharing drugs or drug paraphernalia as well as possessing or using them, seems in sync with Christie's criticism of the drug war's counterproductive harshness. It passed the Assemby by a vote of 67 to 8 and the Senate by a vote of 21 to 10. The California bill, which applies only to possessing or using drugs, passed the Senate by a vote of 21 to 16 and the Assembly by a vote of 55 to 24. Under the California bill, people who provide drugs to overdose victims could still be prosecuted, a potentially serious weakness given how frequently people share or jointly purchase drugs.

More on Good Samaritan laws from Brian Doherty here.

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  • Joe R.||

    Saving lives should always take priority over punishing behavior.

    Obviously drug warriors don't believe that, at all.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Au contraire. Government studies have concluded that every dog shot during a drug raid equals 100 lives saved or created.

  • ||

    these good samaritan laws (my state has em), mucoeeing

    1) narcan made over the counter
    2) narcan issued to cops
    3) needles over the counter
    4) good samaritan laws

    are imo the 4 elements we need to see in every state to substantially decrease HARM

    as doherty etc. mentions (kind of) the way some drug laws (most states) are written - sharing drugs is not really any different than selling them.

    granted, they are not USUALLY prosecuted this way, but in the case of a death - all bets are off. iow, you give somebody some of your drugs, it's the same crime (distribution in most states) as actually formally selling to a user, and sales are where the big penalties are.

    contrary to the hype (no pun intended), in many states, merely being caught as a user - it takes some serious effort - multiple arrests etc. before any real (beyond a night or two) jail time is received

    selling is another story entirely

    good for new jersey. good to see a state that is as bad/statist as NJ (this is a state where NY cops have been prosecuted for carrying concealed, a state that has banned HOLLOWPOINTS before, shit like that - just crazy on the 2nd amendment) did SOMETHING right

  • ||

    "(this is a state where NY cops have been prosecuted for carrying concealed, a state that has banned HOLLOWPOINTS before, shit like that - just crazy on the 2nd amendment) did SOMETHING right"

    Cops shouldn't be immune from state laws, no matter how draconian and offensive they be.

  • ||

    yes, i was waiting for that comment. and i generally agree

    regardless, NJ is crazy on the 2nd, but hopefully ex-post mcdonald and heller it will get a little more reasonable

    it's irrelevant NOW because HR 218 supersedes state law

    this was a great piece of legislation (imo), but i'm all for expanding RKBA for everybody. nationwide right to carry for everybody is still a ways off unfortunately.

    the problem with HR 218 is it's an affirmative defense.

    cops can still be arrested

    fwiw, there was an SPD cop who (Contrary the reason meme) was railroaded for a justified shooting he got involved in with some hell's angels. they tried to discipline him for lying (he didn't) and he was lawfully carrying at the time, but it didn't stop the assholes from the gross injustices... for a while...

    it's an interesting case because when it all fleshed out, he didn't do ANY of the shit they indicted him for.

    the perjury case was based on a FALSE assumption about how he obtained the gun and he was eventually cleared

    i bring the case up because it's an example of a cop being indicted, and one that was clearly innocent as fuck when the whole thing was revealed...

    http://www.oregonlive.com/news.....lls_a.html

    he was cleared...

  • ||

    http://seattletimes.nwsource.c.....is06m.html

    the most egregious injustice imo is the way the anti-SLAPP law is written

    the officer's lawsuit was thrown out, because in effect, the anti-SLAPP law allows people to lie with impunity and be free from lawsuits as long as they are providing info to law enforcement

    it's pretty amazing

    http://seattletimes.nwsource.c.....th10m.html

  • ||

    tl;dr/don't fucking care.

  • ||

    ?

  • Copernicus||

    This doesn't strike me as a good samaritan law.

    Example of a good samaritan law: Citizen A loses his balance and is about to fall off a cliff. Citizen B grabs A by the wrist and saves him from falling. In the process, B breaks A's wrist. The GSL protects B should A try to sue him for injuring him.

    Some comments on this paragraph:
    "The number of drug overdose deaths counted by the CDC doubled between 1999 and 2005. DPA notes that "the majority of overdose victims do not actually die until several hours after they have taken a drug, and most of these deaths occur in the presence of others, meaning that there is both time and opportunity to summon medical assistance."
    1. re overdose deaths: good, nice to see Darwin being proved right.
    2. fear or no fear of prosecution, OD-ing in the presence of other stoned persons is not a good way to get reliable EMS.
    3. This article is missing the only important statistic: What percentage of witnessed OD's do not generate a 911 call due to fear of prosecution?

  • Copernicus||

    BTW, to clarify, I am 100% pro-legalize everything for 2 reasons:

    1. Individual liberty, freedom, responsibility, etc.
    2. It allows addicts to "move along" post haste. I hate lingerers.

  • CampingInYourPark||

    "What percentage of witnessed OD's do not generate a 911 call due to fear of prosecution?"

    In a recent study 6.25299% of those witnessing an OD did not call 911 due to fear of prosecution

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