Mother Of North Dakota Overdose Victim Wants Immunity Law For Those Calling Authorities


Debbie Bjerk’s eighteen-year-old son overdosed at a house party in Grand Forks after eating a brownie laced with hallucinogenic drugs. The person responsible for concocting the drug-laced brownie has been convicted and sentenced, but Bjerk tells the media that she wants a law giving immunity to people who report overdoses.

“Nobody wanted to call police because they were afraid of getting into trouble themselves,” she told the Fargo Forum.

The state legislature did consider that sort of a law last year. Rep. Marie Strinden sponsored HB1412 which, in its original form, gave immunity to those reporting an overdose of alcohol. The state House passed the bill unanimously, 89-0, but when the bill came back from the state Senate (where it passed 42-3), it had been amended to include drug overdoses.

That proved too much for a majority in the state House which voted it down 34-49. The reasoning by many legislators was that they were willing to give immunity to misdemeanor alcohol violations, but not felony drug violations. But Rep. Rick Becker stood during the house Debate to point out that the House had also voted for legislation elevating the delivery of alcohol by an adult to a minor to a felony in some situations:

“I’d point out that there’s another aspect of hypocrisy going on here,” I wrote at the time. “The North Dakota House passed four major pro-life bills, severely restricting abortions and greatly expanding protections for the lives of babies still in the womb. As a pro-life conservative I’m happy they made that move, but I’m baffled that roughly the same group of people would prioritize convicting people for alcohol/drug offenses over saving lives.”

Do we really want to rank what are, relatively speaking, minor drug and alcohol violations over saving lives?