We have previously kept you up to date on Maryland’s slow but steady legal changes, which represent a different approach to fighting the drug war. Maryland’s attempt to overhaul its drug laws is continuing, as the legislature is now reviewing proposed radical changes, which would make the state somewhat of a pioneer on the drug front.
Proposed Changes Take a Different Approach
The first proposed law is one that would provide for on-demand treatment at emergency rooms, for people admitted with drug-related problems. While this may seem counterintuitive, it stems from a study showing that for every dollar spent on treatment $12 is saved on healthcare and criminal justice costs. The law would require hospitals have a drug counselor available at all times, and require them to have pre-set arrangements to transfer patients to rehabilitation centers.
The law additionally would legalize the use of opioids such as heroin to treat heroine addiction. Using heroin as a maintenance program to wean people off of the drug has been done successfully in Europe.
The other controversial proposed change would make it legal for individuals to use drugs at certain state approved facilities. There, the logic goes, trained staff and safe paraphernalia would be available, and the hope is, a better opportunity to identify and help those with addiction problems, or those who may overdose. Those pressing for the legislation cite a Canadian study, which found that 37% more people entered detoxification programs once these “safe facilities” opened.
Legislators are also considering a bill that would make usage of small amounts of drugs such as cocaine, heroin or LSD, as “non-criminal.” This means that usage would not be legal, but the penalty would be considered civil, not criminal, much like a parking ticket is. The logic is to save the costs of the criminal justice system and save citizens from having criminal records which often lead to recidivism, for possessing smaller amounts of drugs.
Changes May Be Long Term Goal
These changes are surely radical and are proposed by a legislator who also happens to be a medical doctor. The motivation is that no state has yet tried to attack the drug problem as a public health problem, as the Maryland legislator believes that it is. The bill was drafted with the assistance of various drug policy analysis as well.
It is anticipated that the bill may take a few attempts to pass, and if it does, may pass with major revisions. Still, advocates are continuing to push it, and see it as a long term goal. The good news is that many other states are pushing their own versions of the law, so the hope is that the surge behind these bills nationally will lead legislators and law enforcement to think differently about solutions to the drug problems.
If you are arrested for a drug-related crime in Maryland, make sure your criminal defense attorneys understand all the law changes that affect your rights. Contact the attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC today for a free consultation to discuss representation from arrest to trial.