TRENTON – Democrats and drug policy advocates praised the passage of a bill today that would protect people who contact the police during drug overdose emergencies.
The bill was described by prime sponsor Sen. Joe Vitale, (D-19), of Woodbridge as “smart policy” that will save lives.
The vote today was the final step in a process that began with the governor issuing a conditional veto of the bill, and then saw the Senate incorporate into it elements of a previously CV’d bill regarding Good Samaritans who phone for help for people suffering from drug overdoses.
Sen. Richard Codey, (D-27), of West Orange, said drug overdoses affect people from all walks of life.
“There are no barriers here,” he said. “This can reach into your family.”
Sen. Loretta Weinberg, (D-37), Teaneck, said it’s about time the legislation was passed and apologized to families for the wait.
“I’m sorry that sometimes we have to jump through hoops to get decent legislation passed,” she said.
Assemblyman Dan Benson, (D-14), of Hamilton, said “It’s about bringing comfort to our families. Safety really comes from saving lives.”
Assemblywoman Connie Wagner, (D-38), Paramus, said seven people in her community lost their lives to drug overdoses over a two-year period.
Roseanne Scotti of the Drug Policy Alliance said drug overdoses are the leading cause of accidental deaths, more so than gun violence or car accidents.
The bill preserves 95 percent of the so-called Good Samaritan bill that was conditionally vetoed last year, preserving much of the protections for people who call 9-1-1 concerning overdoses.
The “5 percent” of the bill that was scrapped was described by Scotti as mostly “second-tier” components.
Christie had conditionally vetoed the opioid bill, and then the Senate incorporated much of the Good Samaritan bill, and the Senate passed the reworked legislation.
Scotti said “language was added to the compromise legislation expressing the Legislature’s intent that it is not intended to protect drug distributors.’’