A bill to grant limited immunity to those who report drug overdoses to the proper authorities passed the state Senate unanimously today (with one Senator not voting).
The bill is SB2070, sponsored by Senator Howard Anderson, a Republican from Turtle Lake. There was no debate after the bill carrier, Senator Grabinger, informed the chamber of the committee recommendation.
This isn’t the legislature’s first stab at this sort of a bill.
In the 2013 session Rep. Marie Strinden – a Democrat from Grand Forks – introduced HB1412 which would have given immunity from prosecution to those reporting an overdose of alcohol. Obviously, this was aimed at underage drinkers who might not take a friend to the hospital out of fear of legal consequences. The House actually passed Strinden’s bill unanimously, but when the Senate approved it they amended it to include drug overdoses, which proved a bridge too far for the House. The amended bill failed 34-49.
Rep. Rick Becker, a Republican of Bismarck, gave what I thought was a particularly eloquent speech in favor of the bill on the House floor before it failed.
It will be interesting to see how Anderson’s bill is received in the State House. Clearly there is support for this concept, but two years ago a House majority was only in on applying this thinking to alcohol consumption. Not drug use.
But the policy is sound, I believe. Whatever your thoughts on drug use, I think we ought to prioritize saving lives over prosecuting relatively minor drug use of contraband infractions.