Support all your favorite nonprofits with a single donation.

Donate safely, anonymously & monthly, in any amount. It's a smarter way to give online. Learn more
Drug Policy Alliance
New York, NY (Headquarters)
givvers: tweaks

The Drug Policy Alliance Network (DPA Network) is the nation’s leading organization promoting policy alternatives to the drug war that are grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights.

Our supporters are individuals who believe the war on drugs is doing more harm than good. Together we advance policies that reduce the harms of both drug misuse and drug prohibition, and seek solutions that promote safety while upholding the sovereignty of individuals over their own minds and bodies. We work to ensure that our nation’s drug policies no longer arrest, incarcerate, disenfranchise and otherwise harm millions of nonviolent people. Our work inevitably requires us to address the disproportionate impact of the drug war on people of color.

Drug Policy Alliance is a 501(c)3 organization.

Latest News

The emergence of new psychoactive substances (NPS) – often called “synthetic drugs,” “legal highs,” or “research chemicals” – pose a number of challenges for policymakers, media covering these issues, medical and social service providers, and people who use these substances.

Unfortunately, current media and policy responses to NPS – a broad category that includes everything from synthetic cannabinoids such as “K2”, to synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, to traditional plants such as kratom – have been largely fueled by misinformation rather than facts.  For example, in New York City, concerns about synthetic cannabinoids led to misleading media coverage and targeted policing in communities of color and among the homeless, missing a critical opportunity to lead with harm reduction and public health strategies instead of criminalization.

These substances often come on the market as legal alternatives to illicit drugs. In the U.S., they are routinely banned, leading chemists to come up with slightly new formulations to evade existing laws. This cat-and-mouse game has led to a proliferation of these substances, whose potential harms (and benefits) are largely unknown.

Join us for an important conversation about novel psychoactive substances on the evening of June 9th and all day on June 10th in New York City. At New Strategies for New Psychoactive Substances: A Public Health Approach, we will share what is currently known about these substances, discuss strategies for intervening when use becomes harmful, explore new forms of drug regulation, and examine how messaging and media about NPS can become more constructive. The gathering will lay the foundation for a series of recommendations for policymakers, medical and social service providers, researchers, and media

This event is free and open to the public. Seats are limited. Registration is required: http://newstrategies4nps.eventbrite.com

New Strategies for New Psychoactive Substances: A Public Health Approach

June 9th, 7:00 – 9:00 pm
John Jay College of Criminal Justice
524 W 59th Street
New York, NY 10019

June 10th, 8:30 am – 5:30 pm
The New School – The Bob and Sheila Hoerle Lecture Hall, UL105,
University Center
63 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10003

PRELIMINARY PROGRAM

June 9, 7:00pm-9:00pm at John Jay: Why do people use NPS?

Before we can discuss what to do about NPS, it is important to understand the range of reasons why people use NPS, specifically, and psychoactive drugs in general. What motivates use? What benefits might be derived from their use? Are there different communities of people who use for different reasons? If so, how do they differ? How do existing drug policies influence the use of these substances? How does or should understanding the underlying reasons for use shape our responses?

June 10, 8:30am-5:30pm at The New School

9:30-11:30am: Getting beyond the myths: What do we actually know about NPS?

Although many NPS are not all that new, responses from both media and policymakers have often been based on little information or misinformation. What exactly are NPS (including synthetic cannabinoids, synthetic opioids, cathinones, kratom, etc.)? What are their effects – both harmful and potentially beneficial? What do we know about who is using NPS? In which parts of the country are they being used? What do we know about trends in their use? What don’t we know and what needs more research?

11:30am-12:30pm: Lunch

12:30-2:30pm: Public health, harm reduction, and policy interventions

NPS provide an opportunity to rethink out failed approach to prohibitionist drug policies and to conceptualize innovative approaches to responding to drugs. What can we do in the short term to minimize and address the harms of NPS? What public health, clinical and harm reduction interventions might be needed? What policy changes might help? Can we envision new regulatory schemes that do not rely on criminalization? What can we learn from other countries about how to respond to NPS?

2:30-3:00pm: Break

3:00-4:30pm: Drug scares, media, and messaging

Drug scares or panics follow a recognizable pattern that includes exaggerated fears about a new substance, an absence of concrete information, and associating the new substance with a marginalized group. How do NPS fit or defy the “drug scare” model? What role do media and messaging play in shaping policy responses to NPS? What role should the media be playing and what tools do they need to do so?

4:30-5:00pm: Closing: Where do we go from here?

Next steps for researchers, policymakers, media, and providers.
 

HOSTS:

  • Drug Policy Alliance
  • The New School for Social Research Harm Reduction Psychotherapy Certificate Program
  • John Jay College of Criminal Justice

SPONSORS:

  • John and Laura Arnold
  • Center for Optimal Living
  • Families for Sensible Drug Policy
  • New York State Psychological Association’s Division on Addiction

PARTNERS:

  • BOOM!Health
  • Columbia University Institute for Research in African-American Studies
  • DanceSafe
  • HAMS: Harm Reduction for Alcohol
  • Harm Reduction Coalition
  • The Influence
  • Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS)
  • New York Academy of Medicine
  • New York Harm Reduction Educators
  • Picture the Homeless
  • Students for Sensible Drug Policy
  • VOCAL-NY
Author:
Date Published: May 27, 2016
Published by Drug Policy Alliance

Washington, D.C. – Yesterday, the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary unanimously approved asset forfeiture reform legislation. Known as the DUE PROCESS Act (H.R. 5283) and sponsored by Crime Subcommittee Chairman Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Ranking Member John Conyers (D-MI), Crime Subcommittee Ranking Member Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Representative Tim Walberg (R-MI), Representative Peter Roskam (R-IL) and others, the bill makes important procedural reforms that will help give property owners fighting a federal civil asset forfeiture action greater leverage to contest a government seizure and increases the federal government's burden of proof in civil forfeiture proceedings. The DUE PROCESS Act, however, currently does not address the “policing for profit” incentive issue.

“For decades police have used civil asset forfeiture to seize cash and other property from the public without any need to prove the person was involved in a crime,” said Grant Smith, deputy director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. “A major overhaul of federal civil asset forfeiture laws has been long overdue, and it is good to see House leaders on both sides of the aisle taking a critical first step toward helping innocent people get their wrongfully seized property back from the government,” said Smith.

The ‘‘Deterring Undue Enforcement by Protecting Rights of Citizens from Excessive Searches and Seizures (DUE PROCESS) Act of 2016” provides new protections and strengthens due process rights for property owners who are faced with the daunting task of contesting a federal civil forfeiture. The DUE PROCESS Act specifies a property owner’s right to a prompt initial hearing before a judge to challenge a seizure or claim undue hardship. The legislation also provides a right to legal representation to indigent property owners at all civil forfeiture proceedings and protects a defendant’s right to hire counsel of their choice.  The legislation also requires the government to comply with certain administrative timeframes and notification procedures that benefit property owners, as well as provide transparency of federal forfeiture proceedings. Crucially, the DUE PROCESS Act also increases the federal government's burden of proof in civil forfeiture proceedings. Currently, federal law allows for preponderance of the evidence, which is the lowest standard of proof in a court of law. The DUE PROCESS Act would require clear and convincing evidence in civil asset forfeiture cases before the government can permanently take property. Advocates highlight, however, that the DUE PROCESS Act, as currently formulated, does not address the warrantless government seizures that will almost certainly continue unchecked until the profit incentives to pursue civil forfeitures are also addressed through legislation.

“We urge House and Senate leadership in Congress to pass comprehensive asset forfeiture reform this year,” Grant Smith, deputy director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. “Congress should take reform a step further and leverage the enormous bipartisan and politically diverse support for eliminating federal laws and programs that have incentivized police to profit from the seizure of cash and other property from innocent people,” said Smith.

Advocates have urged congressional leaders to eliminate the Department of Justice’s Equitable Sharing Program. This federal program enables state and local law enforcement agencies to take property from people not convicted, charged, or even arrested of any criminal wrongdoing, and transfer the seized property to the Department of Justice in circumvention of the laws of the state in which the seizure occurred. As much as 80 percent of the proceeds from forfeited property are returned by this federal program to state and local law enforcement for their own operations, which creates a financial incentive for law enforcement to seize property. A growing number of states are reforming their forfeiture laws in the interest of protecting the rights of property owners and eliminating perverse incentives like those perpetuated by the Equitable Sharing Program. Advocates have also called on Congress to require the deposit of all federal forfeiture proceeds into the Department of Treasury’s general fund.

Federal civil asset forfeiture law allows the government to seize and keep cash, cars, real estate, and any other property from persons without any proof of criminal wrongdoing. Civil asset forfeiture begins when a federal, state or local law enforcement agency seizes property during a traffic stop or other encounter and takes legal action against the property seized from its owner by alleging that the seized property is connected in some way to illegal drugs or other criminal activity. Property owners do not need to be charged or convicted of a crime in order for law enforcement to seize property. In the 1970s and 1980s, Congress expanded to use of civil asset forfeiture by federal, state and local law enforcement in the name of fighting the war on drugs. Numerous law enforcement agencies took advantage of these expanded policies to profit from the confiscation of cash and other property from people during roadside stops and other interactions.

Yesterday’s committee action in the House builds upon momentum in Washington for major civil asset forfeiture reform. Last year, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) in the Senate and Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI) in the House introduced the Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration (FAIR) Act. The FAIR Act eliminates policing for profit and increases the federal government's burden of proof in civil forfeiture proceedings. In January 2015, then-Attorney General Eric Holder issued an order establishing a new Department of Justice policy prohibiting federal agencies from accepting certain civil asset forfeiture assets seized by state and local law enforcement agencies. Groups that support reform come from across the political spectrum, ranging from the Center for American Progress and The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights to Americans for Tax Reform and FreedomWorks.

Author:
Date Published: May 26, 2016
Published by Drug Policy Alliance

The Ohio Senate voted to pass a bill (HB 110) last night that was originally designed to save lives but has been amended to a point where it could do more harm than good.  The original bill was modeled after laws in more than 30 states known as 911 Good Samaritan laws that provide people who call 911 to report drug overdose immunity from arrest for drug possession. The Ohio bill, which some are calling a 911 “Bad” Samaritan law, was amended in committee in ways that would make people less likely to call 911; health experts warn people could die as a result. The fate of the bill now rests in hands of Governor John Kasich who has previously spoken out on finding solutions to the heroin epidemic in Ohio.

In 2011, Kasich, signed a sentencing reform bill requiring more rehabilitation services for low level, nonviolent drug offenders. “You do bad … we’re locking you up,” Kasich said. “But for someone that wants to do better, we’re giving you a chance.”

HB 110 not only limits the number of times people can get help (people only receive immunity for the first two times they call). It also requires medical providers to give patient information to law enforcement. Allowing for police involvement, even for investigation, creates an unneeded risk that people will still not call 911 during an overdose.

The bill also requires people to get mandatory treatment screening within 30 day or face arrest. Encouraging treatment is a valuable goal but mandating an assessment without providing resources under the threat of arrest is setting up people to fail. Fear of coerced treatment will also discourage people from seeking help when they or others need it, and people could die as a result.

“This bill places restrictions on calling 911 to help save the life of someone suffering from an overdose and we are calling on Governor Kasich to veto this ‘Bad’ Samaritan bill” says Jerónimo Saldaña, Policy Manager for the Drug Policy Alliance. “Saving lives from overdose is of the utmost importance and should never have conditions attached. This bill has more holes in it than Swiss cheese and could cost people their lives.”

“My son died of an overdose in 2014” says Laura Cash, a resident of Delaware, Ohio who lost her son to an overdose. “There is no reason he should be dead today except for stigma and ignorance. I deserve to have my son, his wife deserves to have her husband alive and most importantly a little boy deserves to have a dad who absolutely adored him. If we want to put a dent in this epidemic, we have to do everything in our power to keep these individuals alive until recovery can be maintained. Every person who is experiencing a medical emergency deserves a 911 call without having to worry about criminal consequences. A life is more valuable than an arrest.”

Accidental overdose deaths are now the leading cause of accidental death in the United States, exceeding even motor vehicle accidents among people ages 25 to 64.  In 2014, unintentional drug overdoses killed 2,482 Ohio residents, a record for the state. Many of these deaths are preventable if emergency medical assistance is summoned, but people using drugs or alcohol illegally often fear arrest if they call 911, even in cases where they need emergency medical assistance for a friend or family member who they believe has overdosed.

The chance of surviving an overdose, like that of surviving a heart attack, depends greatly on how fast one receives medical assistance. Witnesses to heart attacks rarely think twice about calling 911, but witnesses to an overdose often hesitate to call for help or, in many cases, simply don’t make the call. In fact, research confirms the most common reason people cite for not calling 911 is fear of police involvement.

“The lack of a 911 Good Samaritan law in Ohio is particularly infuriating, considering we are number two in the nation for drug-related overdose deaths,” said Cassandra Young, the Ohio chapter leader of Students for Sensible Drug Policy. “The Ohio legislature needs to put people over punishment by voting no on House Bill 110 and by working to pass a true medical immunity law, such as the original House Bill 249.”

Author:
Date Published: May 25, 2016
Published by Drug Policy Alliance

Anthony Papa will release his new book, This Side of Freedom: Life After Clemency at the New York office of the Drug Policy Alliance (131 W. 33rd Street) on May 25th 2016.

This Side of Freedom: Life After Clemency is a riveting, compelling tale about the life of activist, writer and artist Anthony Papa. He tells firsthand of his experience of returning home after serving 12 years of a 15-to-life sentence for a non-violent drug law violation, sentenced under the mandatory provisions of the Rockefeller Drug Laws of New York State. While behind bars, Papa found his passion for art and his haunting self-portrait "15 to Life" ended up showing in the Whitney Museum. Papa used his art and personal story to generate a wave of media attention and in 1997 he was granted executive clemency by New York Governor George Pataki. Papa literally painted his way to freedom.

Papa says that the freedom he fought so hard to get smacked him swiftly in the face, overpowering him. He struggled with his own freedom while fighting to free those he left behind. Papa goes through heart-wrenching trials and tribulations as he seeks to rebuild his life and continue his fight to end the war on drugs. Along the way he meets an array of individuals from famous movie stars to politicians and the very rich, enlisting their help in doing away with mass incarceration and draconian sentencing laws that have destroyed America's criminal justice system.

Papa’s book launch event will coincide with a celebration for his 10-year anniversary at the Drug Policy Alliance, where he is manager of media and artist relations. His stinging editorials about the drug war have appeared in news sources across the country and world. He is a frequent public speaker and college lecturer on his art and criminal justice issues.

In addition to his new memoir, Papa is also author of "15 to Life: How I Painted My Way to Freedom(2004) a memoir about his experience of being sentenced to state prison for a first-time, nonviolent drug offense under New York's draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws. He has been interviewed by a wide range of national print and broadcast media, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Nation, National Public Radio, Democracy Now, and Court TV, among others. He has appeared on nationally syndicated talk shows such as MSNBC's "Melissa Harris Perry", CNN's "Your Money," Charles Grodin, Geraldo Rivera, and Catherine Crier Live. Papa's art has been exhibited widely, from the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York to many smaller cultural centers around the country.Papa has worked to end the war on drugs through many mediums, including as an artist, writer, co-founder of Mothers of the New York Disappeared and his ten years at the Drug Policy Alliance.

Advance praise for This Side of Freedom: "Anthony Papa's work, beginning with his incredible paintings, continuing with his ground-breaking memoir, “15 to Life,” and now this new offering, “This Side of Freedom,” is almost single-handedly documenting one of the greatest civil and human rights disruptions in our nation's history: the human destruction caused by the war on drugs policies. Papa brings us, in living color and painful authenticity, what these gross violations of human rights do to the spirit, but more, how the spirit can still soar despite mountains of adversity. His is truly on a hero's journey and one we should all take with him," said asha bandele, author of “The Prisoner's Wife.”

What:  Book Release Event for “This Side of Freedom: Life After Clemency

Where: The Drug Policy Alliance 131 W.33rd Street, NYC Office  15th Floor

When:  May 25th, 2016 5-8pm

This Side of Freedom: Life After Clemency
by Anthony Papa
ISBN-978-1530731640  6 x 9  236 pages
$12.95
Paperback Pub Date: April 8, 2016

Anthony Papa¹s website: www.15tolife.com
available on Amazon 

Author:
Date Published: May 23, 2016
Published by Drug Policy Alliance

On Tuesday the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on novel psychoactive substances (NPS), focusing on synthetic cannabinoids (aka “Spice,” “K2,” etc.), cathinones (aka “Bath Salts”), and opioids (fentanyl). The hearing included testimony from two law enforcement representatives, the father of a teenager who died tragically from drug-related causes, and Professor David Nichols, a medicinal chemistry researcher.

Though much of the opening testimony by Committee members and the perspectives echoed by law enforcement were reiterations of the same misinformed and proven to fail drug war ideology, even among them there was recognition that the system is broken. Dr. Nichols offered testimony grounded in science, as an expert with decades of experience studying different psychoactive compounds, but the committee failed to effectively make use of his expertise. 

Issues around NPS highlight flaws in the prohibition approach to drug control, most notably the shortcomings of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s scheduling of drugs according to their perceived “abuse potential” and “lack of evidence for medical use.” The lengthy process has more to do with advancing through various bureaucratic hurdles than an actual practice in science-led policy, and often has resulted in disastrous and unintended consequences like mass incarceration and the stifling of legitimate research. 

When committee hearings on new drug trends were held in the past, like for crack cocaine and later MDMA (aka “Ecstasy”) in the 1980’s, it was often a sign of impending legislative overreaction. While response was certainly needed, as there usually are genuine concerns raised by early indicators of potentially problematic trends in drug use, like sudden increases in emergency room visits and calls to poison control centers regarding previously unheard of substances. 

But the response to crack saw the rollout of mandatory minimum sentencing and the disproportion of harsher penalties compared to powder cocaine, which clear racial disparities of overincarceration caused generations of harm to the black community that reformers have spent decades working to reverse. And the rush to criminalize MDMA almost permanently stunted efforts at developing what may soon become the first approved treatment for PTSD, and with at least 22 veterans committing suicide every day relief may have been available much sooner if MDMA were not already Schedule I.

We’ve seen this play out before and it’s happening again – hyped up media coverage of what are usually the most rare and extreme (and sometimes completely false) horror stories involving new drugs alerts law enforcement officials. They claim “limited options” to combat the new “epidemics” without immediate designation of these poorly understood compounds to Schedule I of the controlled substances act, the strictest classification for drugs that don’t belong on the street. Though merely placing drugs in Schedule I does little to nothing toward eradicating illicit drug supply.

Next month in New York City, a summit on NPS will take place to gather experts from science, healthcare, media, and policy to share and promote dialogue on how to look beyond the prohibition approach to dealing with what is most certainly the future of drug use trends in the U.S. and around the world. 

Regulatory response to NPS is the next big issue for drug control. With the U.K set to enact the most overarching and unenforceable drug policy in response to NPS, here in the U.S. there’s still a chance to try something different.

Kevin Franciotti is a Program Associate at the Drug Policy Alliance.

View more blog posts.

Author: Kevin Franciotti
Date Published: May 19, 2016
Published by Drug Policy Alliance

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The House passed a bipartisan amendment today, 233 to 189, allowing Veterans Administration (VA) doctors to recommend medical marijuana to their patients in states where medical marijuana is legal. The vote already passed the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee, but narrowly failed in the House last year. The amendment will likely now make the final spending bill.

“We are delighted to lift this outdated, discriminatory policy, which has negatively impacted the lives of so many veterans.” said Michael Collins, deputy director for the Drug Policy Alliance’s Office of National Affairs. “We need all options on the table to treat veterans, and finally Congress has seen sense and will allow veterans to be on an equal footing to other residents of medical marijuana states.”

The Veterans Equal Access Amendment was led by Rep.  Earl Blumenauer, who has championed this issue for years. It was also cosponsored by a bipartisan group including Reps. Heck (R-NV), Farr (D-CA), Rohrabacher (R-CA), Reed (R-NY), Titus (D-NV), Lee (D-CA), Gallego (D-AZ) and Polis (D-CO). It was added on the floor to a must-pass Military Construction and Veterans Affairs spending bill.  The same amendment narrowly failed last year, losing by 3 votes. The Senate Appropriations Committee passed this amendment in April of this year, 20 votes to 10.

“Today is a monumental day for us vets,” said TJ Thompson, a disabled U.S. Navy Veteran (’98-’04) who lives in Virginia. “Congress has recognized our right to heal, allowing us access to medical cannabis within the VA.”

Currently, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) prohibits its medical providers from completing forms brought by their patients seeking recommendations or opinions regarding participation in a state medical marijuana program. The directive expired in January 2016, but would remain in force absent Congressional action. The Blumenauer amendment authorizes VA physicians and other health care providers to provide recommendations and opinions regarding the use of medical marijuana to veterans who live in medical marijuana states.

A legislative version of this amendment was included in groundbreaking Senate medical marijuana legislation introduced in March 2015. The Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States (CARERS) Act is the first-ever bill in the U.S. Senate to legalize marijuana for medical use and the most comprehensive medical marijuana bill ever introduced in Congress. The bill was introduced by Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Rand Paul (R-KY), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and generated enormous interest.

Author:
Date Published: May 19, 2016
Published by Drug Policy Alliance

LOS ANGELES–In a recent survey conducted by Public Policy Polling, a startling 10 percent of adults living in Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties said that they had had their property taken by a police officer without being convicted of a crime. Nearly one in five (19 percent) of those living in these three counties also stated that they know someone who had experienced the same.

Statewide, seven percent of Californians surveyed reported losing property to law enforcement without a conviction, and 17 percent said they knew someone who lost property to police.  The higher numbers in the Los Angeles region is consistent with a report released last year that found very high rates of federal forfeitures takes in eight cities in Los Angeles County.

One of the ways in which law enforcement can legally take property or money from people in the absence of a conviction is through civil asset forfeiture, a highly controversial policy that allows law enforcement officers to seize cash or property that they suspect has been involved in criminal activity, such as drug sales. While California law offers greater protections, federal forfeiture laws do not require that police arrest or charge a person with a crime, or convict them.  If the owner does not file a claim in civil court and prevail in the case, the property is permanently lost, and the majority of the funds go to the same law enforcement agency that seized the cash or property in the first place.

Last year the Drug Policy Alliance released Above the Law: An Investigation of Civil Asset Forfeiture Abuses in California, a multi-year, comprehensive look at asset forfeiture abuses in California that revealed the troubling extent to which law enforcement agencies have violated state and federal laws. This report found that many agencies have been circumventing California laws in favor of the federal system, and that the federal system rewards those who exploit this loophole by returning 80% of the proceeds of each forfeiture – more than is allowed under California law.

“Civil asset forfeiture turns the bedrock of the American justice system--innocent until proven guilty-- on its head and these polls make it crystal clear that the public feels threatened.” said Lynne Lyman, state director of Drug Policy Alliance, who commissioned the polls. “Civil asset forfeiture provides no protections for the innocent.”

A 2015 investigation by The Washington Post reviewed almost 62,000 forfeitures from cash and property seized by law enforcement on highways and elsewhere in the U.S. In 80 percent of cases, there was no criminal conviction and more than half the seizures were for less than $8,800.  In a subset of cases where they could identify the race of the person whose property was seized, the majority were Black, Latino or a member of another minority group. The researchers concluded that many people were simply too poor to sue the government for the return of their property.

“Immigrant communities and low-income people in general are the most vulnerable to all forms of police harassment and intimidation,” said Margaret Dooley-Sammuli. “The poll’s findings are consistent with what we see throughout the country—low income people cannot afford to sue the federal government to get their cash back, and so they just have to let it go. It’s nothing less than legalized theft and Californians are ready for reforms.”

When asked if they thought that police should be able to seize and permanently take away property from people who have not been convicted of a crime, 80 percent of respondents in the three Los Angeles-area counties disagreed.  A statewide survey conducted simultaneously reinforced disapproval of this tactic, with 82 percent of Californians disapproving.

Last year, Senator Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) and Assemblymember David Hadley (R-Manhattan Beach) championed Senate Bill 443, to require a conviction in an underlying criminal case before state and local law enforcement could profit by permanently keeping someone’s money or assets.  The bill enjoyed overwhelming bipartisan support in the State Senate, but police chiefs, sheriffs, district attorneys and their lobbyists prioritized stopping it on the Assembly Floor, claiming that the loss of revenue would limit their efforts to fight drug cartels.

At this time, the bill is still pending in the Assembly, and is expected to be amended later on this month, and brought up for a vote. If passed, it would return to the Senate for concurrence on the amendments, before being sent to Governor Brown for signature or veto.

For more information about the Public Policy Polling’s findings, click here: www.drugpolicy.org/sites/default/files/PPP_Memo_CADrug_5.16.16.pdf

For statewide results, click here: https://www.drugpolicy.org/sites/default/files/CAResults1.pdf

For Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino county results, click here: www.drugpolicy.org/sites/default/files/LARiversideSanBernardinoResults1.pdf

SB 443 is co-sponsored by the ACLU of California, CHIRLA-Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, the Drug Policy Alliance, the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, and the Institute for Justice.

Author:
Date Published: May 17, 2016
Published by Drug Policy Alliance

As early as Wednesday the Ohio Senate could consider a bill (HB 110) that was originally designed to save lives but has been amended so badly it could do more harm than good. The original bill was modeled after laws in more than 30 states known as 911 Good Samaritan laws that provide people who call 911 to report drug overdose immunity from arrest for drug possession. The Ohio bill, which some are calling a 911 “Bad” Samaritan law, was amended in committee in ways that would make people less likely to call 911; health experts warn people could die as a result.

“Calling 911 should not be a crime,” said Bill Piper, senior director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. “This bill will discourage people from seeking help and people will die as a result.”

More than 30 states have passed 911 Good Samaritan laws which provide immunity to people who call 911 to help someone who is overdosing. In Ohio the legislation the Senate is considering moves in the opposite direction. It not only limits the number of times people can get help (people only receive immunity for the first two times they call) it requires medical providers to give patient information to law enforcement.Allowing for police involvement, even for investigation, creates an unneeded risk that people will still not call 911 during an overdose.

The bill also requires people to get mandatory treatment screening within 30 day or face arrest. Encouraging treatment is a valuable goal but mandating an assessment without providing resources under the threat of arrest is setting up people to fail. Fear of coerced treatment will also discourage people from seeking help when they or others need it, and people could die as a result.

Laura Cash, a resident of Delaware, Ohio lost her son to an overdose. Speaking on this bill she said, “My son deserves to be alive today, I deserve to have my son, his wife deserves to have her husband alive and most importantly a little boy deserves to have a dad who absolutely adored him. If we want to put a dent in this epidemic, we have to do everything in our power to keep these individuals alive until recovery can be maintained. Every person who is experiencing a medical emergency deserves a 911 call without having to worry about criminal consequences."

Accidental overdose deaths are now the leading cause of accidental death in the United States, exceeding even motor vehicle accidents among people ages 25 to 64. Many of these deaths are preventable if emergency medical assistance is summoned, but people using drugs or alcohol illegally often fear arrest if they call 911, even in cases where they need emergency medical assistance for a friend or family member at the scene of a suspected overdose.

The chance of surviving an overdose, like that of surviving a heart attack, depends greatly on how fast one receives medical assistance. Witnesses to heart attacks rarely think twice about calling 911, but witnesses to an overdose often hesitate to call for help or, in many cases, simply don’t make the call. In fact, research confirms the most common reason people cite for not calling 911 is fear of police involvement.

“The lack of a 911 Good Samaritan law in Ohio is particularly infuriating considering we are number two in the nation for drug-related overdose deaths, said Cassandra Young, the Ohio chapter leader of Students for Sensible Drug Policy. “The Ohio legislature needs to put people over punishment by voting no on House Bill 110 and by working to pass a true medical immunity law, such as the original House Bill 249.”

Author:
Date Published: May 16, 2016
Published by Drug Policy Alliance