AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Janet Mills signed into law on Thursday a bill designed to prevent prosecution of those who report drug-related emergencies.

L.D. 329, "An Act To Exempt from Criminal Liability Persons Reporting a Drug-related Medical Emergency", is sponsored by Rep. Barbara Cardone (D-Bangor). It passed Mills desk on May 23. 

With Mills' approval, Maine now joins 40 other states and Washington D.C. in enacting some type of 'Good Samaritan' or 911 drug immunity law.

The bill will give immunity to people who, in good faith, report any of the following crimes related to drug use and possession:

  • a violation of laws prohibiting the possession of scheduled drugs
  • acquiring drugs by deception
  • the possession of hypodermic apparatuses
  • the use of drug paraphernalia or a violation of probation

It will not, however, prohibit prosecution for all crimes, like furnishing or trafficking. Authorities will also still be allowed to collect evidence at the scene. 

Cardone says the bill is designed to save more lives.

"When someone is experiencing a drug-related overdose, the most important action that person, or someone with that person, can take is calling for medical help," said Cardone in a statement. "By signing this bill into law, Gov. Mills is eliminating the fear that comes with contacting authorities and protecting the lives of Mainers."

"As Maine continues to grapple with the opioid epidemic, arresting and prosecuting someone at their most desperate moment when their friend or family member is experiencing a medical emergency will not solve the problem. In fact, it discourages people from calling for help,” said Governor Mills in a statement. "By signing this legislation, we take another step toward ensuring people seek help to survive an overdose and can pursue life-saving treatment for substance use disorder."

Last year, Cardone introduced the same bill, and it was approved by Legislature but vetoed by former Gov. Paul LePage.

L.D. 329 will take effect 90 days after adjournment.