Maine lawmaker proposes bill to make Maine first state to allow safe injection sites

Published: Apr. 1, 2019 at 6:54 PM EDT
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State lawmakers discussed a controversial bill Monday that would make Maine the first state to allow Overdose Prevention Sites.

These are places where drug users can inject drugs with clean needles provided.

They allow drug users to bring their own drugs and be monitored while taking them.

The sites have narcan on hand if anything goes wrong.

"This is about saving lives," said bill sponsor Rep. Mike Sylvester, D-Portland.

Folks in support of the bill gathered for a rally and vigil prior to the public hearing.

While these have never been legal in the United States, they've been tried in countries like Canada and Australia.

"The public health evidence after 30 years of peer reviewed studies shows that these sites are effective at reducing overdose mortality," said Kenney Miller, executive director of the Health Equity Alliance. "They're effective at reducing rates of infectious disease, and at getting people into treatment services as well."

"We are demonstrating to the other 49 states and to the territories of this country is that we leaders," said Jesse Harvey, founder of the Church of Safe Injection. "And that we are not going to let people die. We are not going to succumb to stigma and shame and fear, but that we will instead embrace human life, science, dignity, and compassion."

Opponents of the bill say it enables use of dangerous drugs.

"I'm in opposition to this bill because I think it's taking us in the wrong direction in our fight against the drug problem in this state," said Rep. Scott Strom, R-Pittsfield. "I want to see more detox centers, more treatment centers, not a place like this that's going to give somebody a place to legally use drugs like heroin. I think it just takes us the wrong direction."

"And then my biggest problem with this bill is half mile radius around these centers, where you can't be picked up for possession. To me that just seems like an awfully safe place for people to be dealing."

The Department of Public Safety submitted written testimony in opposition to the bill.

The Health and Human Services committee will work on the bill in the coming weeks.