To Address Overdose Epidemic, Maryland Lawmakers Must Pass Paraphernalia Decriminalization Bill
BALTIMORE, MD––Today, amid continually record-breaking overdose deaths, 120 Maryland medical and public health professionals––including physicians, nurses, and social workers who work closely with and treat patients with substance use disorder––sent a letter to Senate President Bill Ferguson urging him to call a vote on H.B. 481, the Drug Paraphernalia Decriminalization bill.
H.B. 481, sponsored by Delegates David Moon, Jon Cardin, and 24 others, would amend the classification of certain items used to ingest drugs, effectively decriminalizing the possession of items such as syringes. Decriminalizing paraphernalia is proven to reduce the risk of contracting a bloodborne illness such as HIV and does not increase drug use rates.
“Senator Ferguson has until this Friday, April 1, to encourage the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee to move H.B. 481 forward with sponsor amendments and call for the third and final reading followed by a vote on the Senate floor. We have the 29 votes needed to pass this bill; all we need is for Senator Ferguson to call the vote. If this bill does not pass the Maryland General Assembly by this Friday, Governor Hogan will have until the session ends on Monday, April 11, at 11:59 p.m. to veto the bill, which will likely not allow legislators enough time to override the veto during session,” wrote the signers.
“This bill will help curb the growing numbers of people suffering in the shadows, dying from overdoses, and being harmed by preventable infections related to injecting drugs. Removing criminal penalties for paraphernalia for personal use increases legal access to sterile equipment which reduces the transmission of infectious diseases and risk of overdose, [saving] lives and money,” continued the signers. “This legislation will help ensure Marylanders continue to have access to life-saving services on their road to greater wellness and not be derailed by traumatizing arrests, police interactions, and jail time for possessing the tools they need.”
The full text of the petition can be found below and linked here.
To: Senate President Bill Ferguson
On Thursday March 10, Maryland’s House passed HB481 to decriminalize paraphernalia, and soon this proposed policy will again be in your hands.
We are a group of concerned medical professionals and public health experts who care deeply about the health and wellbeing of all Maryland residents. Through our professional experience, we know how crucial decriminalizing paraphernalia is for the health and safety of people who use drugs.
We are urging you to bring HB481 for a Senate floor vote before April 1, 2022. We are confident that there are enough Senators ready and willing to both vote in favor of this essential piece of life-saving legislation and override a potential veto from Governor Hogan.
This bill will help curb the growing numbers of people suffering in the shadows, dying from overdoses, and being harmed by preventable infections related to injecting drugs.
Removing criminal penalties for paraphernalia for personal use increases legal access to sterile equipment which reduces the transmission of infectious diseases and risk of overdose. This in turn saves lives and money.
The science is clear.
- Every scientific and medical organization to study the issue has concluded that access to drug use tools, including sterile syringes, reduces the spread of HIV, hepatitis, other blood-borne diseases, and soft tissue and skin infections.
- Studies of Canadian programs to distribute safer smoking kits found they significantly reduced risky behaviors like supply sharing that spread MRSA, HIV, Hepatitis B and HCV.
- Access to sterile supplies is associated with increased treatment uptake. Programs that distribute these supplies provide a bridge to treatment, medical care, and other services for drug users. Furthermore, evidence has shown that when there is less fear of punishment or arrest by police, individuals feel safer accessing treatment services.
This legislation will help ensure Marylanders continue to have access to life-saving services on their road to greater wellness and not be derailed by traumatizing arrests, police interactions, and jail time for possessing the tools they need.
Thank you for your attention to this critical matter.
|Anne Blake||St. Clair||Baltimore City||MD||RN, MSN|
|Omeid||Heidari||Baltimore||MD||PhD, MPH, CRNP|
|Tracy||Agee||Baltimore||MD||RN, Nurse Practitioner|
|Natalie||Spicyn||Baltimore||MD||MD, MHS, AAHIVS|
|Nicole||Akparewa||Middle River||MD||RN, MSN/MPH|
|Mary||Degrezia||Halethorpe||MD||PhD, ACRN, CNE|
|Marik Moen||Moen||Baltimore||MD||PhD, MPH, RN|
|Meredith||Kerr||Baltimore||MD||DNP, CRNP, FNP-C|
|Angela||Mason||Baltimore||MD||MPH, BSN, RN|
|Vira||David||Baltimore||MD||Master in Socio-Economic Development|
|Emily||Comstock||Baltimore||MD||DNP, CRNP, ACRN|
|Lydia||Santiago||Gwynn Oak||MD||LCSW-C, CAC-AD|
|Srishti||Roy||Baltimore||MD||Certified Peer Support Specialist|
|Kathleen||Ridgeway||Baltimore||MD||MSPH, PhD candidate|
|Amy||Hecht||Baltimore||MD||Medical assistant, counselor|
|Diane||Diane Horvath||Ellicott City||MD||MD MPH|
|Tanvi||Avasthi||Baltimore||MD||RN, CNM, WHNP-BC|
New York Academy of Medicine. New York State Expanded Syringe Access Demonstration Program Evaluation. January 15, 2003.
National Institutes of Health Consensus Panel, Interventions to Prevent HIV Risk Behaviors (Kensington, MD: National Institutes of Health Consensus Program Information Center, February 1997).
P. Lurie, A.L. Reingold, B. Bowser (eds). The Public Health Impact of Needle Exchange Programs in the United States and Abroad: Summary, Conclusions and Recommendations (1993).
Maryland Board of Pharmacy News. Fall 2017.
Australian Commonwealth Department of Health and Aging. Return on Investment in Needle and Syringe Programs in Australia
Schackman, Bruce R., et al. The Lifetime Cost of Current Human Immunodeficiency Virus Care in the United States. Medical Care. 44 (11):990-997 (2006).
Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, Population and Public Health Program. Safer Crack Use Kit Distribution in the Winnipeg Health Region. October 2012