Massachusetts Drug Bill Would Shield Addicts From Prosecution: Smart Public Policy

I’ve posted in this blog previously about how Gloucester Police Chief Leonard Campanello introduced his own Department policy of not prosecuting addicts who come in to his police department with illegal drugs and/or drug paraphernalia, seeking medical treatment for their addiction.  I wrote of how sensible, humane, and long-past due this type of rational thinking is, and of how Chief Campanello’s approach should be emulated, not only across Massachusetts, but across the United States.

Well, it seems that this hope, may become a reality.  Through legislation recently filed by Gloucester state Representative Ann-Margaret Ferrante, persons who appear at any Massachusetts police department, seeking medical treatment for a drug addiction, would not be criminal charged or prosecuted for a Massachusetts drug offense – so long as that person is acting in good faith.  Addicts seeking help with recovery could turn in unwanted heroin and other drugs, without fear of criminal prosecution.

The bill’s provides that a person “Whoever, in good faith, enters a police station and seeks assistance or treatment for a drug-related addiction, or is the subject of a good faith request for such assistance or treatment, shall not be charged or prosecuted for possession of a controlled substance” or drug paraphernalia.  Before the “get tough on crime” people start objecting to this wise and sound policy, it’s important to note that this exemption from prosecution would only apply if the drug evidence in question was obtained by police as the result of the addict seeking treatment.   Representative Ferrante has made clear that  “”We’re not talking about somebody who comes in with a wheelbarrow full of narcotics, but if you come in good faith, there needs to be a provision (in the bill) that says if you’re an addict, you’re coming in good faith, you want treatment, you can (produce the illegal drug) without the fear of being charged.”

Rep. Ferrante characterized the legislation as a version of the Massachusetts Good Samaritan law, which protects an overdose victim or witnesses from drug possession charges if they call police or 911 for medical help.

Chief Leonard Campanello added, “If the Good Samaritan law can [protect someone who is with an overdose addict and calls 911] from drug possession charges, then why are we not giving the person who’s actually dying the same immunity? That’s exactly what this bill [proposes].”

As a Boston Massachusetts drug charges lawyer, I can’t say how much I endorse this legislation.  It is long past due, it is eminently sensible, humane – and, on a level of public safety and law enforcement – incredibly productive.  Does anyone in their right mind actually think that a drug addict “wants” to be that way?  As a Massachusetts drug crimes defense attorney, I can assure the public that 99% of illegal drug addicts would – if they knew that they wouldn’t be [prosecuted and would receive medical help – leap at the chance to receive medical treatment.

As I’ve said before, in this blog and elsewhere, the “War on Drugs” in this country and in Massachusetts, has been a massive, shocking, epic failure.  Our legal, political and social approaches to drug use MUST change – from treating drug use as a crime and legal issue, to treating it as a medical issue –  now.