It’s that time again – election season.
Our advocacy work in the Maryland General Assembly this year was a bit hampered by the fact that “this is an election year.” We heard that a few times from legislators who were not willing to step up and fight for controversial, yet common-sense, harm reduction legislation for fear of negative campaign propaganda that could derail their attempt at re-election.
Well, they weren’t entirely wrong.
Here are two great examples of the negative campaign propaganda as a result of the 2018 Safe Consumption Spaces (SCS) legislation.
1) Sen. Mathias – District 38 (Somerset, Worcester, Wicomico Counties)
2) Sen. Klausmeier – District 8 (Baltimore County)
Both members of the Finance Committee, Senators Mathias and Klausmeier originally voted in favor of SB288, the senate’s SCS bill. But when the committee was asked to reconsider, they both rescinded their support, effectively killing the bill. That cowardice didn’t seem to do them any good in the long run though; now they are being accused by the Maryland Republican Party as “making it easier to get heroin than ice cream.”
And there is so much misinformation still out there – Del. Carozza, who is running against Mathias for his Senate seat, said “I have heard no validation to support legalized supervised drug use as an effective way to fight the heroin opioid crisis on the Shore or anywhere in Maryland. In addition, the fiscal note highlights significant expenditures for the cost of this program.”
I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt that she probably has not done her homework and is not familiar with the overwhelming evidence that safe consumption spaces reduce disease transmission, reduce public injection and improperly discarded needles, increase access to detoxification services, and most importantly save lives.
But Del. Carozza is just plain wrong about the fiscal note! The fiscal summary states that state expenditures would likely not increase, and local health departments would have potential significant operational and fiscal impact if they choose to implement a program as authorized under the bill. – i.e. each jurisdiction can decide if they are willing to incur the cost. Also, by the way, a Johns Hopkins study found that a safe space for people to use drugs in Baltimore would generate an estimated $6 million in net healthcare cost savings.
These legislators need to hear from their harm reduction-loving constituents!
Please share with your networks in Baltimore County and the Eastern Shore and encourage folks to write to Senators Mathias and Klausmeier about their disappointment in the vote change on SB288!
They need to know they have support from their constituents to stand up for such legislation in the future.
Senator James Mathias, District 38
Interim Address: 11941 Industrial Park Road Unit 3 Bishopville, MD 21813
Interim Phone: 410.352.3096
Senator Katherine Klausmeier, District 8
Interim Address: 4100 Walter Ave. Baltimore, MD 21236
Interim Phone: 410.256.1353
–Tricia Christensen, BHRC Legislative Advocacy Coordinator