New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) Friday conditionally vetoed the 911 Good Samaritan Emergency Response Act, which would have exempted from criminal prosecution people who participated in or witnessed illegal drug use after the call for help for an overdose victim. The governor vetoed the bill because it would have let drug dealers "off the hook," he said.
Christie said he supported harm reduction strategies, including drug treatment for low-level offenders, but that the Good Samaritan bill as passed was not the right answer.
"What I'm not willing to do is to give is to give people who commit harm to other people a free pass just because they picked up the telephone," he said. "The legislature has got to make the bill better. If they make the bill better, I'll be happy to consider signing it."
His conditional veto means the bill goes back to the legislature, which he has instructed to "study the issue of drug-overdose reporting" for 18 months and recommend "a comprehensive approach."
In the meantime, more and more New Jersey residents are dying of drug overdoses every year. Some 700 died in 2009, 884 in 2010, and about 1,000 last year, according to the state medical examiner.
The bill passed the legislature with bipartisan support earlier this year and is similar to Good Samaritan laws passed in 11 other states.