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California Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Bill Signed Into Law

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #751)
Consequences of Prohibition
Drug War Issues

California Gov. Jerry Brown Monday signed into law Assembly Bill 472, the "911 Good Samaritan Bill," aimed at reducing fatal drug overdoses by removing the threat of criminal prosecution for people who seek assistance for people suffering from them. California becomes the 10th state to enact such a law since New Mexico led the way back in 2007.

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Sponsored by Rep. Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), the bill received bipartisan support in the legislature and was cosponsored by the Drug Policy Alliance, the ACLU of California, and the Health Officers Association of California.

"This is a great victory for parents. None of us want our kids overdosing on drugs, but as I told the legislature, I'd rather have my kid around to yell at than attend a funeral," said Ammiano. "The young friends of those who overdose shouldn’t hesitate to seek help because they fear arrest. With the Governor's signature, they won't have to."

"This is an incredibly special day for the thousands of California family members who worked so hard and for so long to pass this life-saving bill," said Meghan Ralston, harm reduction manager of the Drug Policy Alliance. "This is just a small first step in reducing the number of fatal overdoses in California, but it's a deeply important one."

Drug overdose deaths are the number one cause of accidental death in California, as in many other states. The new law encourages people to seek emergency health services when they witness an overdose by providing limited protections from charge and prosecution for low-level drug law violations, including possession of small amounts of drugs. Those who sell drugs are not protected under the new law.

"I never go a day without thinking of my son Jeff and I never will," said Denise Cullen, cofounder of GRASP (Grief Recovery After a Substance Passing). "Losing a child to a drug overdose is a tragedy in ways I can't explain, but fighting so hard for him and for all the parents just like me, to get this law passed is really the best possible way I can honor him."

"After forty years of the war on drugs, California is finally righting its priorities by putting saving lives ahead of making petty arrests. The message is loud and clear: call for help in case of an overdose. This is an important step toward better drug and public health policies and it will save lives," said Margaret Dooley-Sammuli, senior policy advocate for the ACLU of California.

"The physician Health Officers who provide leadership for public health programs in every county are grateful to Governor Brown for partnering with us on this common sense, no-cost approach to saving lives," said Bruce Pomer, executive director of Health Officers Association of California. "It's urgently needed."

Now the task is to get the word out to those populations where it will do the most good. Advocates from dozens of state and local organizations will be working to do just that, both before the new law goes into effect on January 1, and throughout the following year.

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.


Leslie Katzenmeier (not verified)

In Theory it seems great but in practice it must rely on multiple things one cannot just assume - 1. Each state /.district / province has different immunity protections- do those persons who may witness an overdose know what protections are provided them by state ? I think the answer is NO . If I am a Califormia DRUG DEALER and my client that I sold heroine to just 30 minutes before goes into cardiac arrest and I report it- i will lose all of my drugs to confiscation andlikely this will punish me to make it up- Further , immunity DOES NOT APPLY to me- Drug Dealers are NOT IMMUNE- so this law cherry picks who is and who is not subject to arrest , incarceration and negative consequences. I will always lose whatever drugs and or paraphanalia I have on me. If I also happen to be an addict - i am unduly influenced more by my bodily cravings and likely not wanting to lose my drugs and or be detained. If I am detained and or arrested , my family and others like employers can then find out and m ability to even clean up and find work may be negatively effected- employers regularly do background checks- The GOOD SAMARITAN LAW is known only to drug users with prethought who look it up- i myself just looked it up or I would have been unaware and upon reading mine for california- would possibly not want to subject myself to the comsequences of reporting an overdose if i were in any of the top situations- The real issue here is not weather a Good Samaritan Law exists in my state but rather that the state has taken ownership over what I can put into my body and that the above motivations for not calling 9-11 or seeking out help for a person showing overdose symptoms would simply NOT EXIST IF : Drugs were legalized and I had ownership over my own person- Could I then without hesitation get help? YES I COULD AND WOULD Further - one must remember that Prisons are FOR PROFIT- based upon having PRISONERS - most of the United States Prosons for profit are non violent drug offences- Also the huge cost of illegal drugs would go down just like alcohol did, when made legal- The good Samaritan Law relys on college kids and others to have gone over the law with a fine tooth comb to find out who and what iscand or is not immune from reporting overdose- The ridiculous nanny state cannot even manage to build in provisions which actually work . They would rather protect prisons for profit and the pharmaceutical chemical monopoly ehich actually and statistically still kills around one million users of legally prescribed synthetic drugs per decade while enjoying cartel protections of the FDA - a proven farce - This is not really about an entity that cares as it is about the US drug buisness and pharmeceutical profits - What , ask yourself, do private pridons NEED to make a profit? PRISONERS How do you get more prisoners? You lobby to make more things illegal - food for thought
Sat, 04/25/2015 - 6:11pm Permalink
Anthony (not verified)

Hello my name is Anthony and in October 2021 I overdosed on fentanyl my children’s mother kick down the door and resuscitated me. Subsequently this led to the removal of our children under welfare and institutions code 300 and then following welfare and institutions code 301 (B) (1) failure to protect. I was also charged with endangering a child under Penal Code section 273 (b). The fentanyl overdose and resolution team comprised of Department of Homeland Security the drug enforcement agency in Fresno Police Department were only able to find trace elements of subatomic fentanyl particles. No fentanyl was found with the naked eye it took a laboratory technician to swab down my entire bathroom which was behind three different locked doors. Including: A childproof lock on my bedroom door, a conventional lock on the same door, and a conventional lock on my bathroom door. Nonetheless, the children were removed despite failure to meet the elements of welfare and institutions code 300. The officers later called and apologized profusely for making “a bad call”. The children’s mother was present and sober and she had just moved here from Texas and did not have emergency shelter as she did not have access to my wallet or my phone. They removed the children based on the foregoing. The children’s mother was not offered any reasonable services such as being put up in a hotel for a night, A parent partner, or any other alternative other than the removal of the children. If any help or general information can be provided it would be greatly appreciated .
Sat, 02/12/2022 - 2:16pm Permalink

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