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At the Statehouse: Sentencing, Drug Testing, Good Samaritan, Hemp, and SWAT Bills

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #612)

As 2009 winds up, we present the last installment in our series of articles on drug reform in state legislatures. This week, we look at Good Samaritan bills, sentencing bills, drug testing bills, and a hemp bill and a SWAT bill.

Rhode Island Senate chamber
Although we have tried to be comprehensive, we might have missed something. If we have, please write to us here.

Good Samaritan Bills

Connecticut: A bill that would protect overdose victims and the people seeking help for them from prosecution, HB 5445, was introduced in January and referred to the Joint Committee on the Judiciary, where it got a hearing in March. It has not moved since.

Hawaii: A bill providing limited immunity from prosecution for overdose victims and those seeking to help them, HB 532, was introduced in January, passed the Health Committee on an 8-0 vote in February, and was assigned to the Judiciary Committee. It has now been held over for the 2010 session.

Maryland: A bill that would protect overdose victims and the people seeking help for them from prosecution, HB 1273, passed the House on a 135-0 vote in March, passed the Senate on a 47-0 vote in April, and was signed into law by Gov. Martin O'Malley in May.

Nebraska: A bill protecting drug overdose victims and those seeking to assist them from prosecution, LB 383, was introduced in January and got a hearing before the Judiciary Committee in March, but has not moved since.

New York: A bill that would provide protection to drug overdose victims and those seeking to help them, A 8147, was introduced in May and referred to the Assembly Rules Committee in June, where it has sat ever since. A companion measure, S 5191, was introduced in April and has sat before the Senate Codes Committee ever since.

Rhode Island: A bill that would provide limited immunity from prosecution for drug overdose victims and those trying to help them, S 194, was introduced in February and referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee, where it has been stalled ever since.

Washington: A bill that would protect overdose victims and those trying to help them from prosecution, HB 1796, was introduced in January and approved by the Committee on Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness in February. It was then referred to the House Rules Committee, where it died for lack of action.

Drug Testing

Kansas: A bill that would have required people who seek public assistance to undergo drug testing, HB 2275, passed the House on a 99-26 vote in March. It was referred to the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee at that time, but has not moved since.

Louisiana: A bill that would have required welfare recipients to undergo drug testing, HB 137, died in June on an 11-5 vote in the House Appropriations Committee.

Missouri: A bill that would have made it a crime to falsify a drug test or to sell or transport drug test adulterants, HB 446, was introduced in May and promptly went nowhere. It is currently "not on the calendar." A bill that would require drug testing of welfare recipients upon "reasonable suspicion," SB 73, won a hearing before the Senate Progress and Development Committee in February, but has been dormant ever since.

West Virginia: A bill that would have mandated random drug tests for people who receive food stamps or unemployment benefits, HB 3007, was blocked in committee. A last ditch effort to revive it via a House floor vote was defeated 70-30 on a straight party line vote. Republicans voted for it.


Louisiana: A bill, HB 630, which would grant parole eligibility to people sentenced to life without parole for heroin offenses, passed the House and Senate in the spring and became law without the governor's signature in July. It became effective August 15.

Massachusetts: The state Senate last month approved SB 2210, which grants parole eligibility to nonviolent drug offenders serving mandatory minimum sentences. But the House recessed without taking action on the measure.

New Jersey: A bill that would give judges discretion to waive mandatory minimum sentences for some drug offenses, SB 1866, passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on November 23 and passed Senate yesterday. Its companion measure, A2762, passed the Assembly last year, and Gov. Jon Corzine (D) has said he will sign the bill.

New York: The legislature and Gov. David Paterson (D) came to an agreement in March on a second round of reforms to the state's draconian Rockefeller drug laws. The reforms, which went into effect in October, included returning judicial discretion in low-level drug cases, expanding treatment and reentry services, expanding drug courts, and allowing some 1,500 people imprisoned for low-level drug offenses to apply for resentencing.


Oregon: Oregon became the 17th state to pass legislation favorable to hemp farming and the ninth state to remove legal barriers to farming the potentially lucrative crop as Gov. Ted Kulongoski (D) in August signed into law SB 676, an industrial hemp act sponsored by state Sen. Floyd Prozanski (D). The bill removes all state legal obstacles to growing hemp for food, fiber, and other industrial purposes. It passed the House 46-11 and the Senate 27-2. Industrial hemp production remains prohibited under federal law.


Maryland: Gov. Martin O'Malley signed into law a bill that will require law enforcement SWAT teams to regularly report on their activities. The bill was largely a response to a misbegotten drug raid last July in Prince Georges County in which Berwyn Heights Mayor Cheye Calvo and his family were doubly victimized -- first by drug traffickers who used their address for a marijuana delivery, then by Prince Georges County police, who killed the family's two pet dogs and mistreated Calvo and his mother-in-law for several hours. The bill, the SWAT Team Activation and Reporting Act (HB 1267), requires all law enforcement agencies that operate SWAT teams to submit monthly reports on their activities, including when and where they are used, and whether the operations result in arrests, seizures or injuries.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


joebanana (not verified)

That's a bunch of bull shit. Government should have to be drug tested more than anybody. period. These morons have to be on drugs, every one of them. We need to launch a campaign to stop drug abuse by government employees, especially elected officials. I want to know my government isn't on drugs, but by their actions, they have to be. Normal people don't think like that. And all government office buildings must get alcohol interlock devices on the doors. Along with random searches/inspections of government offices, lunch box's, car's, locker's, or anything else on government property. This must be enacted. These drug crazed/alcoholic politicians are destroying this country, drug testing must be mandatory for government. Period. I want to see this on the next ballot.

Fri, 12/11/2009 - 3:13pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

In reply to by joebanana (not verified)

Do you understand the 4th amendment at all?
ALL random drug testing done by the government is a violation of the constitution.It is a search without probable cause whether it is done to welfare recipients or congressmen or anyone else.The drug war has led to more of our constitutional rights being stripped than anything else.Private companies can do what they want but making people piss in a cup to get a job is still unAmerican and requires a person to prove himself innocent using a test that does not even tell if a person is intoxicated on the job,which is the only thing an employer needs to know.
Yes immoral politicians are destroying the country but so are people who support destroying our constitutional rights.

Sat, 12/12/2009 - 9:23am Permalink
Berta (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

re: joe banana's proposal to drug-test government workers

satire...humor... ---- look it up!

But, actually, I wouldn't be surprised if our politicians did a *better* job if they had a few, selective drugs to shake up their rigid, inflexible thinking.

I think our culture lost something important when we did away with shamanistic experiences which incorporated plants which induced heightened mental states.

Sat, 12/12/2009 - 12:42pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Yes, of course, I agree that all testing is a violation of our rights. However, wasn't the point of JoeBanan's statement to say that, 'by God if we get tested- then those bastards should not be immune'

Sun, 12/13/2009 - 3:20pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Maybe I'm mistaken but I took joebanana's comment to read that since the constitution is being violated for some it should also be for all.
Private employers can do whatever they want even though drug tests are less reliable than polygraphs which are illegal for employers to demand as a condition of employment.But government conducting random searches is definitely a violation of the 4th amendment no matter what that pig Scalia says.All drug tests conducted by the government should end.

Sun, 12/13/2009 - 3:46pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Drug testing people on welfare will only uncover some potheads because cannabis is the only drug that will remain in the body long enough to show up on a drug test, and even then, only with chronic use. Other drugs are not detectable after a short abstinence of as little as a couple of hours. So this is more stupid waste of government money.

Sun, 12/13/2009 - 7:31am Permalink
Mike "Moose" McGinn (not verified)

Your "Writing Demonstration Project" is a fine endeavor. However, could please stop calling police officers "Prohibition agents"? It is admirable that you want to call a spade a spade, but really, all you are doing is sounding awkward and confusing. Most people reading this site know that police officers work to maintain prohibition. By calling them "Prohibition Agents," you are making people think of a particular department. DEA? Border Guards? ATF?. etc. You don't need some odd-sounding jargon that reads like you got it from a street corner Marxist to help us figure it out.

Sun, 12/13/2009 - 10:38am Permalink
rita (not verified)

Arizona has just instituted drug testing for welfare recipients "upon reasonable suspicion," which amounts to answering "yes" to a series of questions like, "Do you use illegal drugs?" and "Have you ever used illegal drugs?" Seriously, who's going to answer yes? Big Brother says the new policy is meant to save the state money and keep people from using their government benefits to abuse drugs. (Alcoholics are, as usual, exempt.)

Some people actually support the new policy on the grounds that, if drug testing is required for some to receive a paycheck, then it's only fair to require it of those who receive welfare. What they're not getting is that NOBODY should be subjected to such a degrading, demoralizing, sick and twisted invasion of privacy.

By the way, since everything about the drug war violates the Constitution, I seriously doubt that invoking the Fourth Amendment will be much of a deterrent. When all these people find themselves peeing in front of strangers in order to receive their Social Security checks (and mark my words; that's next) then they'll understand who really owns their bodies.

Mon, 12/14/2009 - 10:18pm Permalink
Asera42069 (not verified)

In reply to by rita (not verified)

i heard through the grape vine that our lovely well respected sheriff was buste din a hotel with strippers over $75,000 of stolen money and cocaine. all he recieved was 60 days house arrest and was able to keep his job. so how come they want to drug test all of america when the ones doing the tests are most likely using too. in mass pot has been decrimminalized so we are able to have under an ounce and only get a fine. i wonder if that would be held into account if and when they decide to waste our states money on drug tests.

Fri, 07/23/2010 - 2:24am Permalink

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