Maryland House unanimously passes amnesty bill

By Jonathan Munshaw, Towerlight

The Maryland State House of Delegates voted to approve a bill that would put amnesty programs in place for those who attempt to help someone who may have overdosed on alcohol or other drugs.

The “Good Samaritan” bill, sponsored by Del. Jon Cardin from Baltimore County, would prevent anyone from being charged with possession of drugs or alcohol, or violation of an outstanding non-violent arrest warrant, if police or emergency personnel are called to aid an overdose victim.

It would apply to the individual needing the medical attention, as well as any bystanders calling the emergency personnel on the victim’s behalf.
“We’re looking in general at more progressive drug and alcohol policies,” Josh Greenfeld, the legislative director for Cardin, said.

There was a similar bill that was voted down in the House in 2009, Cardin said, but that bill did not include the portion regarding non-violent arrest warrants.  

There are already 14 other states that have adopted similar “Good Samaritan” policies.

“I think in this case it was mostly other states doing it,” Ben Mendelsohn, a Towson student volunteer coordinator for Cardin’s attorney general campaign said. “But I think that honestly when you have [University of Maryland, College Park] and [Towson] and other schools doing it, it gets a lot of other people thinking about it as well.”

Towson’s Student Government Association supported a similar policy in 2011, known as the “Responsible Tiger Protocol.”
Mendelsohn was SGA treasurer during that time.

“This is something for emergencies when their life may be on the line. The ultimate goal is to prevent deaths and encourage responsible actions,” Mendelsohn said in a Towerlight article written after the SGA introduced the new policy.

After some tweaking, the policy was eventually adopted by Towson.

The current protocol runs through the Office of Student Conduct, and states that anyone who calls the police or notifies a TU staff member, remains with the student in need of assistance and cooperates with University officials can apply for amnesty from any charges.

“Disciplinary sanctions and action may be mitigated for the following types of violations,” the protocol states. “Underage possession of alcohol, underage use of alcohol [and] being a guest in an on-campus residence hall room where alcohol is being consumed.”

The Responsible Tiger Protocol also applies to student groups.

Mendelsohn said that Cardin’s bill covers more than the current University policy.

“His bill goes further, I think rightfully so, than Towson’s,” Mendelsohn said. “Towson’s only involves alcohol overdose. Cardin’s bill includes drug overdose.”

Greenfeld said that the University System of Maryland has supported the legislation and Assistant to the President for Governmental Relations Rich Reinhardt said he told Cardin it was a good bill, although the University does not have an official position on the bill.

The Senate is expected to act on the bill on March 18, Greenfeld said.