HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html New Mexico Bars Drug Charge When Overdose Is Reported
Pubdate: Thu, 05 Apr 2007
Source: New York Times (NY)
Copyright: 2007 The New York Times Company
Author: Ralph Blumenthal
Cited: Drug Policy Alliance
Bookmark: (Harm Reduction)
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Medicinal)


Struggling with an epidemic of drug fatalities, New Mexico has 
enacted a groundbreaking law providing immunity from prosecution for 
people who come forward to help drug users suffering overdoses.

The act, signed into law Tuesday by Gov. Bill Richardson, prevents 
the authorities from prosecuting on the basis of evidence "gained as 
a result of the seeking of medical assistance."

It also protects drug users themselves from prosecution if the 
process of seeking help for an overdose provides the only evidence 
against them.

The legislation, which was popularly known as the 911 Good Samaritan 
bill, is the first of its kind in the nation, according to the 
National Conference of State Legislatures.

In a statement yesterday, Mr. Richardson, who is running for the 
Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, said: "I have always been 
committed to prevention and rehabilitation of drug users. If we can 
encourage people to save themselves or others from a drug-related 
death or trauma, then we should do that. This bill will encourage 
families and friends of addicts to seek medical care and prevent 
their loved one from dying."

The action was praised by the Drug Policy Alliance, which works to 
ease drug penalties. The group said New Mexico had the worst overdose 
problem in the country, with about one death a day.

"Whatever it takes to get people to call 911 to save lives," said 
Tommy McDonald, a spokesman for the group in Washington.

It was the second drug measure signed in two days by Mr. Richardson. 
On Monday, he signed a medical marijuana bill that allows patients 
who are H.I.V. positive or who have diseases including AIDS, cancer, 
glaucoma or multiple sclerosis to relieve pain with marijuana, under 
a doctor's supervision.

The governor lobbied strongly for the medical marijuana bill, which 
he said could hurt his presidential prospects but was "the right thing to do."

The Samaritan bill, introduced by State Senator Richard C. Martinez, 
a Democrat and a retired magistrate judge from Espanola, also 
provides that in the event of a drug prosecution based on outside 
evidence, the act of seeking aid for someone suffering an overdose 
"may be used as a mitigating factor" in a defense. 
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