U.S. drug war slowly shifts fire away from low-level users

March 31, 2014
by Jerry Markon
Washington Post

But states and localities have led the way, including in the development of Good Samaritan laws. They have emerged, with strong bipartisan support, as a reaction to the prescription drugs epidemic, along with the surge in heroin use. Advocates say some people overdose and die because witnesses, who may be sharing in the drugs, are afraid to seek emergency medical assistance.

The laws generally provide limited immunity from prosecution, usually for drug possession or other lower-level charges, for witnesses who call 911 and for the overdose victims. More serious charges such as drug trafficking are generally not covered. The laws are now on the books in 17 states plus the District, according to the Trust for America’s Health, a public health advocacy group.

Much of the impetus has been provided by parents of overdose victims, often from suburban areas seeing more drug use who form support groups and use the Internet to honor their loved ones. Among them was DiRenzo, of Blackwood, N.J., a middle-class community outside Philadelphia.

Alice Crites and Scott Clement contributed to this story.

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