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New Jersey Good Samaritan Overdose Bill Passes

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #747)
Consequences of Prohibition
Drug War Issues

A bill designed to reduce drug overdose deaths by providing some legal protection to people who witness them and summon medical assistance has been approved by the state legislature and now awaits the signature of Gov. Chris Christie (R). The bill passed the Senate Monday on a 21-10 vote; it had cleared the Assembly back in May.

The bill, Assembly Bill 578, also known as the Good Samaritan Emergency Response Act, would provide limited legal protection against drug possession charges for people who witness an overdose and call 911. It is aimed at reducing drug overdose deaths by reducing the fear of arrest for those might call for assistance.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death, replacing automobile accidents. More than 27,000 people died from drug overdoses in 2007, most of them from prescription opiates, either by themselves or in combination with other drugs, including alcohol.

Many drug overdose deaths occur in the presence of others and take hours to occur, meaning that there is time and opportunity to call for help. But strict enforcement of drug possession laws against would-be Samaritans discourages some from making that call.

Advocates are applauding the passage of the life-saving bill.

"Calling 911 should never be a crime. Our current policies focus on punishment and drive people into the shadows and away from help," said Roseanne Scotti, New Jersey State Director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "Saving lives should always take priority over punishing behavior.  A Good Samaritan law will encourage people to get help."

"When a life is on the line we can ill afford to waste time weighing the consequences of calling 911 or deciding whether or not to be truthful about what substance was used to overdose," said Senate bill sponsor Sen. Joseph Vitale (D-Middlesex). "By narrowly eliminating the criminal consequences one might face after calling 911 to report an overdose, I hope to diminish any hesitation one might have about doing the right thing."

"I and my family are so grateful to the senate for passing this life-saving legislation," said Patty DiRenzo, whose son Salvatore died of an overdose at age 27. "We, and the other families who have lost loved ones to overdose, will be advocating with Gov. Christie to urge him to sign this bill. It's extremely important that we prevent future overdose deaths and spare other families the grief that mine has endured."

If Gov. Christie signs the bill into law, New Jersey will become the ninth state to enact a Good Samaritan law. The others are Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, and Washington. Similar legislation is pending in several other states.

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.


Paul Pot (not verified)

The real good Samaritan bill will be the one that legalizes drugs for once and for all.

Wed, 08/22/2012 - 10:33am Permalink
Paul Pot (not verified)

The real good Samaritan bill will be the one that legalizes drugs for once and for all.

Wed, 08/22/2012 - 10:33am Permalink
dahszil (not verified)

You won't have to worry as much if "drugs" were legalized.  Safety regulations would be in place.  Even more important is taking the illegal markets astronomical profit margins away from the murderous cartels, the "lily white front" launderers, the rotten multinational goldman sachs type banks, the police/prison complex, etc.  Most important of all the most effective too to gain market share by illegal commodity and service providers, i.e. violence, torture and death, will be extinct. Also, Long term addicts whose only alternative in the current drug war is high cost maintenance, or suicide by overdose or other means.  It has been proven that addicts can lead contributive and productive lives if they are legally maintained, which means low cost for the addict.  They have no longer to spend their whole day begging, selling their bodies for sex, stealing, etc to get the high amount of money to keep them from going into a painful withdrawal or all too often deadly overdose.  The best audio file I have heard is Jim Geirach(sp?)on the Burt Cohen radio show(see archives)a former drug prosecutor, now with L.E.A.P(law enforcement against prohibition), about why drugs should be legalized and why legal medically monitored(for hard drugs, not cannabis) maintenance is much better than leaving the addict to the torturous jungle; why crime would plummet surrounding the sale of drugs if legalized regulated and taxed, etc.  This war on drugs is just part of the evil of what america has become: a bloody, exploitive, imperialist empire.  Our founders of this former US republic, must be rolling in their graves.





Mon, 08/27/2012 - 12:16am Permalink

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