Harm Reduction: Washington State "911 Good Samaritan Law" to Go Into Effect in June

Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire (D) Wednesday signed into law a measure that provides some legal immunity for people who report a drug overdose. That makes Washington the second state to enact a "911 Good Samaritan Law." New Mexico was the first in 2007.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/washingtonstatehouse.jpg
Washington State House, Olympia
Under the measure, if someone overdoses and someone else seeks assistance, that person cannot be prosecuted for drug possession, nor can the person overdosing. Good Samaritans could, however, be charged with manufacturing or selling drugs.

The measure is aimed at reducing drug overdoses by removing the fear of arrest as an impediment to seeking medical help. According to the state Department of Health, there were 820 fatal drug overdoses in the state in 2006, more than double the 403 in 1999.

The bill also allows people to use the opioid agonist naloxone, which counteracts the effects of opiate overdoses, if it is used to help prevent an overdose.

"We're going to save lives," Rep. Roger Goodman (D-Kirkland) told Senate sponsor Sen. Rosa Franklin (D-Tacoma) after the bill signing.

"It might take the fear out of calling for help," Franklin said.

Washington is the first state this year to pass a 911 Good Samaritan bill, but it may not be the last. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Rhode Island are considering similar measures.

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Jean Boyd's picture

OK

This is very good, however a person can still be charged with manufacturing or selling. What is the difference?

McD's picture

What is the difference?

Before you could have been busted for simple possession if you were a fellow user who realised a friend had overdosed; now you won't get busted for simple possession, so there's no longer the disincentive to call 911 if you understand someone's got themselves into trouble they can't get out of without professional help. Before you would have had to throw your stash away and somehow work up the confidence to convince the authorities you weren't using yourself before making that call; now, if you're trying to save someone's life, they won't turn around and book you for being there.

If, on the other hand, you're a really nice-guy type of dealer who lets people shoot up on the couch in his/her living room as soon as they've scored from you, you're still in for a hard time; if you're as stupid a person as you are a nice guy, that is, and go ahead and make the call in the first place.

As Lou Reed said (something like), 'Why don't you just pick your old lady up by the feet / drag her out on to the street / and in the morning she's just another hit and run?'

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