Thanks to grassroots harm reduction and recovery organizers, lawmakers, and Gov. Janet Mills, Maine passed the strongest Good Samaritan Law in the country last year.

Since August 2022, if 911 is called when someone is experiencing a drug overdose, the person who is experiencing the medical emergency and anyone present at the scene who is “rendering aid” has immunity from being charged with most crimes, including drug crimes. They also cannot be arrested on warrants or have their bail, probation, community confinement, or deferred disposition revoked. These protections do not extend to crimes against children, sex crimes, or violent crimes.

Expanding the Good Samaritan Law last year was a big bipartisan win. But with 716 fatal overdoses in Maine in 2022, up from 636 fatal overdoses in 2021, expanding the law was nowhere near enough.

But even as the number of Mainers dying each year increases due to preventable overdose from a contaminated supply, there are some lawmakers who want to roll back the protections.

One of those lawmakers is Rep. Richard Campbell, a Republican from Orrington. The bill that he is sponsoring, L.D. 714, An Act to Expand the List of Crimes That Do Not Qualify for Immunity Under Maine’s Good Samaritan Laws Concerning Drug related Medical Assistance, seeks to roll back the protections of the current law.

If L.D. 714 passes, as written it will add unlawful trafficking, unlawful furnishing and possession of a firearm by a prohibited person to the crimes that someone can be charged with at the scene of an overdose. People are often charged with trafficking or furnishing even if they are not trafficking or furnishing their drugs to others, simply because of the amount of drugs they have in their possession for their own personal use.


As a person who formerly used drugs and a harm reductionist who works with people who use drugs, there is no doubt in my mind that if we allow this bill to make it into law people will be less likely to call for help in the event of an overdose, a life-threatening medical emergency, which will undoubtedly lead more people to die.

The whole point of expanding the Good Samaritan Law, or having one in the first place, is so that people will feel more comfortable calling 9-1-1 in the event of an overdose. A medical emergency should not be a time where the police can come in and start arresting people. Especially with the presence of cuts like Xylazine, which are not opiates and so are not affected by naloxone, making their way into the drug supply, it is more important than ever to keep our Good Samaritan Law strong.

In a more just worL.D. the police would be required to work in an EMS capacity only at the scene of a medical emergency, or we would have the ability to not have the police respond at all to crisis and medical calls, but at the very least we should not be weakening our Good Samaritan Law and making people more afraid to call 911.

It’s 2023. We know what works to decrease overdose deaths: harm reduction, naloxone access, decriminalizing drug use, a regulated safe supply, etc.

We know that criminalizing drugs doesn’t lessen the number of people doing drugs or the number of people dying from a
preventable overdose.

Please reach out to your state senator and representative and ask them where they stand on L.D. 714, and tell them why they should be against L.D. 714 — and in favor of saving people’s lives.

Mikki Rice of Freeman Township is a harm reduction and recovery advocate.

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